Hollingworth’s cowardice on display again

10 Nov



Last week, barrister Caroline Kirton QC approached the solicitor for BSG, a survivor of childhood sexual abuse and witness at the child sex abuse royal commission, to change his testimony to remove all references to her client, former Governor-General Peter Hollingworth.

Kirton’s request that BSG alter his statement would “amount to having removed every reference to the name Hollingworth from my statement and she requested that I do that and submit that as my amended statement” BSG told the royal commission.

Peter Hollingworth was Anglican Archbishop of Brisbane, Australian of the Year and a Governor-General appointed by former LNP Prime Minister John Howard. Hollingworth resigned as Governor-General after accusations that he failed to act on child sexual abuse crimes in his diocese, and claims that he had sexually assaulted a woman in the 1960’s.

Phillip Aspinall, Hollingworth’s successor as archbishop, ordered an inquiry, which concluded that in 1993, Hollingworth had allowed a known paedophile to continue working as a priest.

It’s a tribute to the courage and fortitude of survivor and witness BSG that he wasn’t intimidated by Kirton’s approach, instead revealing to the royal commission her attempts to persuade him to change his statement to protect her client from further public scrutiny.

Kirton clearly underestimated BSG, or she wouldn’t have made the approach in the first place. Rather than hosing things down for Hollingworth, this act of cowardice only serves to strengthen the perception of the former archbishop as weak, and interested in protecting himself and his church, before the children in its charge.

Hollingworth was in a position to protect victims of sexual assault from predators on his watch. He failed to do that. Yet he now feels entitled to request protection from the shame further public scrutiny of his failure will cause him and his family, and he feels he is entitled to request this protection from a survivor of his failures.

If only Hollingworth and many others like him in positions of power in various churches and other institutions that offered paedophiles a safe haven, had even a fraction of the courage and strength of BSG and other witnesses and survivors, thousands of children could have been spared the ordeal of sexual assault and the devastating consequences of those assaults on their lives. Many who have died might still be alive. This is the responsibility Hollingworth bears, of having the power to protect children, and failing to exercise it.

If the ordeal of shame, humiliation and disgraced resignation have been difficult for Hollingworth to bear, to the degree that he needs to attempt to silence a survivor’s testimony to protect him from any further exposure, he might spare a thought for the suffering of the young who were abused by the paedophile he allowed to continue on his path of violence and destruction, when he could have acted quite differently, and spared them.



29 Responses to “Hollingworth’s cowardice on display again”

  1. Tref November 10, 2015 at 8:15 am #

    Hollingworth was Janet Howard’s choice for GG and was always a bad one. There is no room for doG in government or society. The Royal Commission has borne this out and I am glad he continues to be shamed. Good on BSG

    Liked by 2 people

  2. hudsongodfrey November 10, 2015 at 12:45 pm #

    I agree with most of what you say, but I’m troubled sometimes in finding it difficult to see where this condemnation leads us. The urge to condemn comes quite naturally, but if asked how and to what end then unless its the institution we mange to bring down as opposed to individuals then I suspect we don’t achieve a great deal. It just strikes me as a pity having victims like BSG relive their abuses if it means getting their hopes up for the one kind of change that Hollingworth proves will never happen. You won’t get the guilty to admit it.

    And if you can’t get them to fess us then there’s really only one other game in town and that’s making sure that they’re caught.

    Maybe I’m being too cynical. I know the logic of this is that if we don’t go through this process of airing the grievances we have against these institutions then we’ll never get anywhere. But its they who’d be happiest for us to divert our attentions to individuals like Hollingworth and Pell. It allows them to play the “one bad apple” card and solemnly promise to change practically nothing.

    I’ve been watching this reasonably closely as have many, and one thing which strikes me as wrong is that some of the Catholic church representatives in particular still seem to think that their internal “healing” process is viable. Not that I suppose we can or should want to stop them from having one, only that the language they’re still using still reflects past use of similar processes to obfuscate and divert victims from reporting their abuse to police. I still think we’ve some work to do as a community in insisting that this can’t continue or resume where it left off.

    “Mea Culpa, Mea Culpa” they say, willing to tell god how sorry they are…. They’re just not sorry enough to offer restitution to victims and the community that would properly provide us with any authentic sense of reconciliation.

    The guilty I can condemn and at that point stop caring about. I simply have neither the energy nor the inclination to allow myself to be consumed by bitterness towards them. The institutions we won’t be quickly rid of so we have to continue to deal with but set that relationship on a better footing with the same oversight we’d apply to anyone working with children.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson November 10, 2015 at 12:57 pm #

      There’s so much in your post for me to think on, HG.
      Institutions are comprised of individuals, it seems as if we are trying to weed out those individuals and make examples of them, especially the ones with standing. I don’t know how else we can implement change.
      The guilty so rarely admit their guilt, you’re right.
      I want to think more about the points you’ve raised before responding, but as far as Hollingworth is concerned, I was pretty shocked at the tactics employed in the attempt to protect him.


      • hudsongodfrey November 10, 2015 at 1:08 pm #

        I was more shocked that this woman acting as his lawyer would make those representations than I was at the thought she’d been instructed to do so. I expect the guilty to be and act like bad people who fail to keep good faith with the public. At the same time I think we’d all like others who aren’t so corrupted to exercise their conscience in the victim’s favour.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Forrest Gumpp (@ForrestGumpp) November 10, 2015 at 4:03 pm #

          Is it too late to ask “instructed by whom?”? It appears to be an assumption that it was Hollingworth who instructed Kirton to make this request. Given the time of year and impending 40th year anniversary of the Dismissal, I find the timing of this event interesting, especially considering Hollingworth’s expression of regret around the time of his resignation that he had not acted unilaterally to fire the teacher before the results of the police investigation became available.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Jennifer Wilson November 10, 2015 at 4:42 pm #

            I guess we assumed Kirton was instructed by Hollingworth as he is her client.
            I take your point, tho, that there are undoubtedly other stakeholders…


            • samjandwich November 10, 2015 at 11:13 pm #

              We have seen from other examples at the Commission, e.g. the Catholic Church and the Bethcar case, that the combination of an inexperienced and fearful respondent and an aggressive legal team can result in confusion as to whether the respondent is instructing their lawyers, or following their advice… and the whole thing can easily spiral out of control and benefit no-one – not even the lawyers in extreme cases!

              Liked by 1 person

              • Jennifer Wilson November 11, 2015 at 6:53 am #

                How much more civilised is an inquisitorial system than our adversarial system.


                • doug quixote November 21, 2015 at 9:33 pm #

                  I don’t agree. An inquisitorial system is all too easily abused by an authoritarian government.

                  “A vigorous exchange of views” or even the Marxist/Maoist idea of dialectical materialism seem preferable to me.

                  Liked by 1 person

      • sam jandwich November 10, 2015 at 11:05 pm #

        Yes, interesting points HG. Perhaps though my initial response would be that the word d”condemnation” is not quite accurate as a description of what’s going on – and that it’s simply an attribution of responsibility.

        Instead of condemnation we might just feel sorry for the hapless git, but examining his actions still gives us insights into the sorts of behaviour that leads to children being abused and gives us a place to start when thinking about how to prevent such things from happening in the future.

        Liked by 2 people

        • hudsongodfrey November 11, 2015 at 1:00 am #

          That may be you, and I’m not saying it doesn’t reflect well upon you to think as you do, but if I’m talking about what I find fault with then the metaphor I was looking for was to exemplify what most people get wrong in a less accusatory way. I’m concerned that they wipe their hands of it like the sheriff in a Western or the righteous cop locking up their man and throwing out the key according to the narrative that’s so often sold us. But I’m asking what if that guy was a scapegoat for institutions that keep cashing rain checks with their talk of an afterlife and friends in high places. If ever there was a batch of kool aid we might want to reject…..

          Liked by 1 person

          • sam jandwich November 11, 2015 at 10:45 am #

            Yes I see your point, there could well be a tendency for scapegoating.

            Perhaps I’m coming from a place where I’ve actually been quite impressed by the Catholics’ admittedly belated efforts to do the right thing, through the work of the “Truth Justice and Healing Council”: http://www.tjhcouncil.org.au/ . I’ve sort of come to see past failures as resulting from a lack of effective leadership rather than an irretrievably dysfunctional organisation, but it does look very much as though the TJHC is filling that gap, and hopefully having a lasting influence…


            • samjandwich November 11, 2015 at 10:49 am #

              Oh, is Hollingworth Anglican? Is there a difference?? Who knew?!


              • Forrest Gumpp (@ForrestGumpp) November 12, 2015 at 8:52 am #

                There is in this case, Sam. That is because this case was never about supremacy as to state vis-a-vis ecclesiastical authority as it may have come to bear upon the toleration or cover-up of abuse.

                Hollingworth’s role as a churchman was only significant because he was the Archbishop, and as such held deciding powers as to what could, under the law, be done by the boards of management of Anglican schools. This abuse happened in an Anglican school. It was Hollingworth’s other hat, as effectively the EMPLOYER of the as then only alleged perpetrator that was significant.

                The difficulty of Hollingworth’s position is that he was held by the likes of Hetty Johnson and others to an expectation that he should have acted in his role as employer to fire the teacher that we now know to have been the perpetrator, BEFORE there had even been a finalized police investigation, let alone a verdict in a trial.

                Set apart from his prominence as a Governor-General, how would Hollingworth have been regarded across the whole industrial relations spectrum had he fired the teacher, either refusing to give cause or smearing him in the absence of even a police investigation?


                • hudsongodfrey November 12, 2015 at 11:20 am #

                  Fire, maybe? Would he have had to report the person Otherwise he could’ve been on the horns of an unfair dismissal case. Or would a firing be enough to make it go away on the basis that even an innocent teacher might choose to shy away from guilt by association. Great, so you’ve figured it out then, but where does this leave the victim exactly?

                  So sure I see the point that as a political appointee he was a scalp of sorts to some, but he was also a senior person within an institution that like their opposite number put their reputation ahead of their responsibility to victims.


                  This isn’t really a reply top Forrest, but it put me in mind of something I wanted to lay out for a while.

                  There really is a firing order of priorities here that people seem somewhere between keen to pay lip service to and trying to avoid acting upon.

                  Victims first, second and third, (support, restitution and healing), reporting after that (preferably mandatory), then the necessary background checks and balances, and education about who and where to go when concerns are raised. But lastly and at quite some distance the growing obsession some seem to have about worrying over thought crimes and looking for something to ban is actually what we’d be seeking to avoid within a free society. By putting measures in place that actually deal with all sexual assaults and especially offences against the young properly and openly, then we don’t have to go about imposing restrictively discreet useless half measures and relying too much on taboos that we’re so obviously hypocritical about.


            • hudsongodfrey November 11, 2015 at 11:38 am #

              See I find your perspective interesting because having come from that background I harbour strong suspicions the “Truth Justice and Healing Council” is a body designed to window dress business as usual. It strikes me as the right name for the sort of body that only has a role to play after the assaults or allegations thereof are mandatorily reported.

              As I said before I don’t doubt there are people within their ranks with good intentions towards helping victims to heal or even ministering to those who will I would hope become defrocked priests. There’s no objection to be raised against doing so that I know of nor reason to believe it would have to be listened to.

              Those however are different matters to what similarly named processes have concerned themselves with in the past. Healing became code for let’s just forgive one another and hear no more ugly talk about money and compensation claims. The church as we now know also showed negligent disinclination to report offenders to police.

              I fear that sections of the church hierarchy will cling to an interpretation of ecclesiastical guilt, morality and reconciliation that is purely theological between them and their god. Its an absurd pretext to say that civil standards don’t apply to ordained criminals .This bizarre claim to some kind of imprimatur for sidestepping the consequences of their own actions fails to authentically address the community’s or the victim’s need for genuine restitution, and it hasn’t stopped voluntarily so it has to be stopped. I believe it to be the RC’s job to deliver that result and hope they’ll succeed.

              When the quality of mercy isn’t a strain on our credulity then forgiveness may or may not be possible. Until that time however I think healing comes after the kind of diagnosis that has the equivalent of public health implications we seek immunization from rather than offering immunity for.


  3. wordynerdbird November 10, 2015 at 3:38 pm #

    When will these people ever learn that attempting to cover things up only causes more trouble and grief?
    It’s sickening that this request was ever made.
    Kudos to BSG for outing them, yet again.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. LSWCHP November 10, 2015 at 10:04 pm #

    I find this completely weird.

    Normally (as if anything is normal about shit like this) those in power will threaten the little people who are exposing their malfeasance. Something like “If you mention my name I’LL SUE YOU BACK INTO THE STONE AGE”. In this case, it appears to be a polite request along the lines of “I allowed a monster to rape you, and now would you please leave me out of your revelations, thank you very much”.

    So, an unbelievable sense of self entitlement perhaps? Or may somebody else made the request, as per FG’s suggestion. Very, very strange.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Jennifer Wilson November 11, 2015 at 5:54 am #

      Yes, L, quite bizarre. Barrister obviously thought BSG would cave, embarrassed now I imagine., having created even worse publicity.


      • Forrest Gumpp (@ForrestGumpp) November 11, 2015 at 6:52 am #

        Intended result or the Streisand Effect?

        Or could it be an intended result able to be smokescreened by a claim as to it being due to operation of the Streisand Effect?

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson November 11, 2015 at 8:34 am #

          I immediately thought of the Streisand effect, and wondered how the barrister hadn’t done the same.


          • Forrest Gumpp (@ForrestGumpp) November 21, 2015 at 2:11 pm #

            Off topic, but speaking of the Streisand Effect in relation to CNN in America, here is the tweet for which journalist Elise Labott got suspended for two weeks:

            Fur Elise (sans umlaut)

            Liked by 1 person

            • Jennifer Wilson November 21, 2015 at 4:52 pm #

              Soon, Sheep will be suspended….


              • Forrest Gumpp (@ForrestGumpp) November 22, 2015 at 8:12 am #

                I don’t like that! (I have to type it because I can’t see how to do it with the button on the somewhat opaque Android platform.) But I think that has already been tried, and they got too much Streisand Effect in the attempt in the #MTRsues tweetstorm.

                BTW, the Twitter thread to that tweet is the sort of place into which persona management software generated online entities are deployed by such as may be seeking to dilute (or amplify) the genuine SM reaction to the issue. Only the users of the software will thus be able to assess the drift of the genuine reaction online. A tool of use in the manufacturing of consent.

                To clarify the ambiguity to which you were responding, yes, of course you are an influencer of opinion, but a genuine one, not a construct. Some may see a need to dilute you.

                Liked by 1 person

                • Jennifer Wilson November 22, 2015 at 12:51 pm #

                  People have always tried to dilute me. Since I learned to talk.


      • Forrest Gumpp (@ForrestGumpp) November 11, 2015 at 8:33 am #

        To clarify the reasoning as to my questions above, I note that as a former Anglican churchman Hollingworth would appear unlikely to have significant private wealth. Such is normally necessary to secure legal representation in matters of this nature.

        However, Hollingworth is also a former Governor-General, and in that circumstance I suspect it is standing operational procedure for legal representation to be effectively provided at public expense. Routine oversight of such provision would presumably be the responsibility of some government department. I therefore see the likelihood of a pathway existing for input into the legal representation process by government functionaries.

        He who pays the piper calls the tune.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Jennifer Wilson November 11, 2015 at 8:35 am #

          Ah, so we are paying for Hollingworth’s legal team?


          • Forrest Gumpp (@ForrestGumpp) November 11, 2015 at 9:01 am #

            I strongly suspect so. (And that it would be routinely so with respect to any former Governor-General in circumstances requiring legal representation.)

            I also strongly suspect that the effect of the request was entirely foreseeable, and foreseen. It is my view that the influences behind our nobbled politics across the board greatly fear the power of the Governor-General.

            In my view it has always been the Office, not the man, that was the target with respect to Hollingworth.


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