Sun, May 25, 2003 - Page 5 News List

Governor-General faces more claims of mismanagement

AFP , SYDNEY

Embattled Australian Governor-General Peter Hollingworth faced further claims of mishandling child abuse yesterday after he allegedly claimed a teenage girl initiated a sexual relationship with a priest.

Hollingworth wrote a letter to the girl's parents last week saying she started the affair with the priest when she was a 14-year-old student at an Anglican school in Brisbane, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC).

The letter provided fresh ammunition for those calling for Hollingworth's resignation after a church-commissioned report found he failed to act against paedophile priests when he was Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane in the 1990s.

Queensland state Premier Peter Beattie said Hollingworth's attitude showed his insensitivity to child abuse.

"As a parent I believe any suggestion that a minor is responsible for sexual contact is abhorrent and the worst possible kind, because people in responsible positions of trust have got to have the moral fortitude to say no," Beattie told the ABC.

A court dismissed rape allegations against Hollingworth dating back to the 1960s on Friday but the ruling failed to quell demands for his departure.

Welcoming the dismissal of what he called "baseless allegations", Hollingworth said he would consider his long-term future as governor-general.

He stepped down from the vice-regal position on May 11 pending the outcome of the rape case and has not indicated if he intends to resume office.

He is reportedly considering challenging the Anglican church's report into his conduct as Archbishop of Brisbane on the grounds he was denied natural justice.

The report condemned as "untenable" Hollingworth's decision to allow a confessed paedophile to continue practicing as a priest, and pressure for his departure mounted yesterday.

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