Hollingworth makes shock announcement

State Memorial Service for Peter Reith
Former governor-general and Anglican archbishop Peter Hollingworth will no longer perform clerical duties. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling

Former governor-general Peter Hollingworth has announced he will no longer continue clerical duties in the Anglican Church, after renewed pressure on him for his handling of child sex abuse allegations in the church.

“I wish to announce that earlier this week I notified the Anglican Archbishop of Melbourne that I will be returning my Permission to Officiate,” he said in a statement.

“Despite the Professional Standards Board inquiry finding that I was fit to retain my licence because I was not a risk of harm to anyone, I am concerned that my continuing to exercise priestly functions as a bishop is a cause of pain to survivors.

“I want to end distress to them, and division within the church.”

State Memorial Service for Peter Reith
Peter Hollingworth has handed back his licence to perform clerical duties. Picture: NCA NewsWire / David Crosling

Dr Hollingworth was the Archbishop of Brisbane in the 1990s when he failed to respond to sexual abuse allegations against priests and Anglican school teachers, dating back to the 1960s.

Five inquiries had been made into the allegations of mishandling against Dr Hollingworth which were first made 20 years ago.

The latest, by the church’s special independent investigator Kooyoora, held a private four-day hearing into the issue in February.

The board last month concluded that Dr Hollingworth should not be defrocked despite finding he made mistakes when child sex abuse allegations were presented to him when he was an archbishop 30 years ago.

On Friday, Dr Hollingworth, who is now a retired priest but had a licence to conduct services such as weddings and baptisms, said he would relinquish that licence and again apologised for his handling on the matters.

“As Archbishop of Brisbane from 1990 to 2001, I was ill-equipped to deal with the child abuse issue and, like some other church people, was too defensive of the church on the advice of lawyers and insurers,” he said in Friday’s statement.

“I say that as a matter of context, not as an excuse. I have lived with my failures every day since.

“But I did not commit a crime. I did not cover up sexual abuse. And I was not an abuser.”

Hollingworth, Australia’s 23rd governor-general from 2001 before he resigned in 2003 when allegations emerged.