Breakaway archbishop John Hepworth says he was r-ped more than 40 years ago by Ian Dempsey. Dempsey, now the parish priest at Brighton, denies the accusation. Both men cannot be right.

Sex, lies and now the Catholic Church has released the findings of a protracted investigation that has found in favour of Dempsey, to the extent that no evidence was found to support Hepworth’s version. Nothing proved, but neither has the matter been resolved.

The allegations by Hepworth, an archbishop of the breakaway Traditional Anglican Communion, were revealed in the Senate in September when Senator Nick Xenophon named Dempsey as the alleged rapist.

Xenophon has now dismissed the church inquiry result as ”bizarre”, saying Hepworth was not interviewed. The lack of transparency ”confirms my fears about the appalling way the South Australian Catholic Church has treated John Hepworth”, he says.

The inquiry by Michael Abbott QC included interviews with 29 witnesses, many of whom were present at the time the alleged events, and the examination a large number of documents.

Adelaide’s Catholic Archbishop Phillip Wilson says he intends “to accept the findings in full” but won’t be releasing them because they contain ”significant personal and sensitive information”. The rape was alleged to have occurred more than 40 years ago when Hepworth and Dempsey were young Catholic priests.

The fact that Hepworth was not interviewed by Abbott is clearly a sticking point. Abbott has told The Advertiser that many requests were made for Hepworth to be interviewed, all of which were declined.

Hepworth has told The Australian he did not co-operate because he would have to bear the costs of bringing witnesses before the inquiry, “which I could not afford and I was also told that no witnesses would be indemnified”.

Xenophon says the church hierarchy “should hang their head in shame”. “How can this be credible when no evidence was heard from the person that made the allegations?” he asks.

The point needs to be made again that Hepworth never took his allegations to the police. No charges were ever laid and, given the time that has elapsed, the chance of sustaining a charge is next to zero.

Hepworth always said he preferred the Church to handle the matter internally. To then decline to co-operate with the inquiry, apparently because he objected to Abbott’s involvement, is up to him.

But to criticise then the findings on the basis of his non-involvement is a bit rich. He had his chance and did nothing.

For good measure Abbott has given Xenophon a backhander for the naming and shaming of Dempsey in the Senate.

“I also note that Senator Xenophon conducted no inquiry, interviewed no witnesses and had access to no documents (except Archbishop Hepworth’s accounts) before taking the course he did in the Senate,” Abbott says. “In view of the conclusions that I have come to in my report, it is regrettable that Senator Xenophon took the course he did before an investigation had been concluded.”


The one undisputed fact is that everyone has to live with their consciences.

*This article first appeared on InDaily