Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Pervert Priest?

1999:

"The Vicar-General of the Adelaide Archdiocese, Monsignor Ian Dempsey, was also quoted in The Advertiser. He noted the concern expressed at the falling number of seminarians and commented that the Church's "restrictive understanding and interpretation of sex within the whole category of love and intimacy" followed a history of male supremacy and patriarchy." (AD2000 Vol 12 No 4 (May 1999), p. 4)

2011:

Monsignor Ian Dempsey, now parish priest of Brighton, is named by Senator Xenophon as the alleged rapist of Archbishop Hepworth of the T.A.C., when the latter was a young Catholic priest.  Senator Xenophon told the Senate : ''The people of the Brighton parish have the right to know that for four years allegations have been outstanding that the priest, Ian Dempsey, raped John Hepworth and that church leadership has failed to make appropriate inquiries into this matter and that church leadership had failed to stand this priest down as a matter of course while inquiries take place. Sexual abuse flourishes because people keep secrets. For the people of South Australia this was a secret that in good conscience I did not feel I could, or should, keep.''

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UPDATE: These allegations have now been investigated, and it has been determined that there is no substance to them.

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[I delete two sentences, that speculated about a possible link between the quoted remarks above and the allegations made, and also predicted the Monsignor wouldn't be a parish priest much longer – for clearly these thoughts were incorrect.]

Recall that Cardinal Pell "stood aside" as Archbishop of Sydney while allegations against him – allegations found to be false – were made; so, if that was done in his high-profile case, why not in this?

[I still wonder about this last point, but perhaps the allegations were even to begin with considered to have so little substance as not to warrant such a treatment.]

11 comments:

Kate said...

Nice to see you rising from a preoccupation with somnolence (but to reply to a comment you sent me, I myself haven't really)!

And a very interesting quote indeed.

This is indeed a sad story with a long way to go yet before it is resolved one way or the other, yet being made worse by an archdiocese that appears to have learnt nothing from the recent past as it has been played out elsewhere (and for that matter in another high profile case relating to an Adelaide priest).

Particularly aggravating is that the reason presented for not having Mgr Dempsey stand aside while the investigation occurs is his good standing in the diocese!

One can only assume that Archbishop Wilson has not actually read and absorbed 'Towards Healing' which explicitly acknowledges that:

"Offenders frequently present as respectable, good and caring people. They can be
quite exemplary in their public life, while at the same time living a private life that
contradicts their public image."

Fr Ronan Kilgannon said...

I do not have much sympathy for Arch. Hepworth. He has had 50 years to deal with this alleged abuse. He could have gone to the police at any time and didn't. He would not permit the Archdiocese of Adelaide to investigate his case until February this year. It is now in the hands of an independent commission. And yet he complains the complaint has not been dealt with quickly enough. Give us a break. He has already received compensation from the Archdiocese of Melbourne. Archbishop Wilson has been prominent among the bishops in dealing with the sad crime of child sex abuse. He was involved in formulating Towards Healing. He would have know exactly what was involved in this case and the ramifications. What can possibly be achieved by publicity about an alleged event of 50 years ago except to drag the church into disrepute. I also have these questions, why did a man in his twenties keep returning to a situation of abuse? Why did he not fight or at least run away? Many of us have had bad sexual experiences during childhood and adolescence - one in seven girls and one in twelve boys according to Australian statistics. At some stage in our lives we deal with them. Is this desire for publicity at any cost, a legacy of the Oprah Winfrey Show? Whatever Arch. Hepworth's situation or motives, he seems better suited to the TAC.

Joshua said...

I - most reluctantly - allow publication of the above comment by Fr Kilgannon (pardon me, Father, but who are you? where is your parish or whatever?).

I must say, I find the tone of the comment rather surprising coming from a priest: I think the one thing we have come to understand in recent years is that victims of sexual abuse are left deeply traumatized for life by their experiences, and so it is rather harsh to criticize a victim of violent and repeated rapes by known sex perverts (Stockdale & Pickering) for "not acting sooner".

I think that monetary compensation hardly solves the mental anguish of being raped, Father - by that argument, forcible sex ought be bought and paid for!

The Church - which I love - is, quite frankly, in utter odium, and rightly so, for the plague of cases of priests wickedly breaking their vows and committing every perverted filthy crime: so I think blaming the victim to be a particularly stupid thing for a priest to say, if I may say so.

I assume Father can also perceive the difference between forced and consensual sexual activity, and thereby why some "cope with it" and other don't.

Again, I reluctantly allow Fr Kilgannon's comment, but I regard it as a sad proof that the clergy have learnt nothing about compassion for victims of sexual abuse, and seem not to understand how hated the Church is becoming because of these crimes; crimes, too often, worldwide, covered up, and now being revealed to a horrified world.

The worst effect, after all, of clerical sexual abuse is that the scandal of it destroys the faith of the faithful: as Our Lord said with His own blessed mouth, Better for one who so scandalizes the little ones that he cast himself forthwith into the sea.

Judas, it may be said, is the prototype of all wicked priests.

Joshua said...

May I also reproach you, Father, for saying that Hepworth should remain in the TAC - when, surely, as a Catholic and a priest, you would wish that all be united in Holy Church? Indeed, in Hepworth's case, bringing him home and regularizing his situation would be very important, even a matter of his soul's salvation one would think, since he was born a Catholic and ordained a Catholic.

Again, I am amazed that a priest, who should set the laity an example of compassion for the lost sheep, instead seems intent upon barring the gate of the sheepfold.

Heard of the Good Shepherd?

No wonder so many Catholics drift from practising their faith.

Fr Ronan Kilgannon said...

Dear Joshua and Joshua,

I am surprised you hesitated to print the my comment. Is it because an honest contrary view is not publishable? I sometimes get this impression when you write about the Liturgy. I accept both of your criticisms. I wrote the above out of frustration. Perhaps I expressed myself poorly. I am a priest in good standing in my diocese and not known for lack of compassion.

I do sympathise with the Archbishop for the emotional wounds he bears. I know them from personal experience. I have prayed for him in my memento at Mass often. Where he lost my sympathy was in choosing publicity - in parliament and various media outlets - as a means of progressing his case, I think on very poor grounds. What is the sudden need to rush after 50 years? For four year he has refused to take his case to the police, and still does. He begged that the church investigation be delayed because of his fragile emotional state until last February when it began with his permission and is now in the hands of an independent commission. Investigating a case 50 years ago can hardly be concluded in a matter of weeks. Yes, unlike yourselves, I do believe Archbishop Wilson is telling the truth.

Archbishop Hepworth is obviously a wise and competent man, otherwise he would not have been elected to the office of bishop and then Primate in the TAC. Like me he as preached our Lord's Gospel of forgiveness and healing for the past 40 years, and undoubtedly assisted people who suffered abuse in childhood. I imagine he has had to deal with allegations of abuse made against his own clergy. I have had correspondence with His Grace via his website re the Ordinariate.

Joshua and Joshua please help me. This is what I do not understand, and you made no attempt to answer it above. If you have worked for years at the highest level to bring a large number of people into the Church, why when you are standing on the threshold would you go public with a crime that occurred 50 years ago, and is under investigation, and which you know would bring that same church into such public disgrace?

That he is seeking redress for past abuse I understand and support. But that he sought this kind of publicity I do not. His interview with The Australian bordered on the pornographic. What please tell me what is to be gained from that?

I wonder if you realise how difficult it is for us to carry out our priestly work every time the media - and especially the ABC - gloats with delight over the failure of one of our brothers many decades ago? If we appear in the collar now there are sly remarks about 'child molesters' and 'pedophile priests'. We are all being tarred with the same brush. There are some days I wish I did not have to leave the presbytery. And in all this, I find few if any lay people speaking out to support us, rather than standing back and wringing their hands and saying how terrible this is, and presuming it is always the Church's fault. The crime is terrible wherever it occurs. We know the incidence of abuse is higher in Protestant churches and massively higher in families - and yet we never hear much about this, or of any attempt to address it. This too is frustrating that the Catholic priesthood is singled out.

OK so it is a cross we have to bear, but why this extra weight laid on it so unnecessarily? I never thought I would be so please to be so close to retirement. Thank you for your patience.

Joshua said...

Dear Father,

I think I too now understand you better and where you are coming from, so to speak.

Ever since, a few years ago now, I made some unflattering comments about a certain choir, comments which initiated a "flame war", I resolved to carefully edit comments (and to try and be less inflammatory myself!).

Unfortunately, for some reason the relative anonymity of the internet allows one to say things rather more forcibly than one would normally. I think of St Paul, who notes in his letters to the Corinthians how it was said of him, that he was meek and mild when present in the flesh, but stern indeed what he wrote. I say this first of myself, mind you: yes, on my blog I do indulge that Pauline severity, which I tend to keep quiet in reality.

Certainly, until recent times I tended to take the view most of the time that the Church and her priests were being unfairly singled out by those who just love to attack organized religion and the Catholic Faith in particular. I suppose that knowing somewhat of the person who has made these accusations made me take his side.

I can only surmise that people find it cathartic to bare all and tell their tale of woe: it seems the fashion nowadays.

Yes, I do have compassion for priests, and indeed have commiserated with priests I know, who face this problem of persevering in doing good, when priests are mocked as depraved evildoers. If it is any consolation, Catholic priests in England in Newman's time were targeted in just the same way (think of all those old stories of tunnels between presbytery and convent).

I normally have spoken on behalf of the Church and against her enemies when this issue of sexual abuse is brought up - and as you so rightly say, it is in our fractured families that abuse is most prevalent; indeed, as a friend put it, to stamp out pedophilia, stamp out de facto partners.

Still, it remains that the clergy have a solemn responsibility to be whiter than white, to be above reproach, to be true to their vows of "holiness to the Lord"; and it does appear that not only have a minority of priests erred so sinfully, but the bishops who should have dealt with such reprobates failed in their duty. It is the systemic failure that is so damning. In my opinion, a few bishops off to prison for negligence would be no great loss, particularly given the lack of quality in the episcopate at present.

Joshua said...

(continued)


Unfortunately, the liberal versus conservative divide has reared its ugly head over the Hepworth case: whereas usually liberals with glee exploit the issue of sexual abuse to lambaste conservatives, in this case apparently (as over at that aCatholic website) the same liberals are damning the victim and claiming it is all some vast right-wing conspiracy. For what it's worth, Adelaide has a bad reputation as a city of deviance both in and out of the Church, and Wilson is thought not to have done so good a job there, as the archdiocese has had a liberal ruling clique (strange, since the laity are generally conservative), and Wilson appears to have acquiesced in their plans for a priestless future.

It does seem to me strange, whatever of such rumours, that the Towards Healing process does not appear to have been properly implemented from what has been said, and that in particular the accused priest has not been stood down, especially given that the Melbourne process accepted Hepworth's claims against those evil priests Stockdale and Pickering, infamous abusers who, one fears, now burn in Hell with Satan.

I could not help but note that Dempsey, publicly accused of sodomy, is known as an ultra-liberal with views on sexuality that do not sound in accord with the Catholic moral teaching of the Magisterium.

It is notorious that not all Adelaide priests are chaste (I think of a religious priest of yesteryear who eventually left, but was well-known for frequenting gay bars in that city), and so, whether or not the alleged unnatural union was consensual, it should be made very clear to priests that they are not their own, but God's, and cannot defile themselves in carnal ways. Instead, as in my own archdiocese I can name two priests (one dead) who had suspiciously close friendships (with women, be it said) that yet seem never to have been named and shamed for breaking their vows, one suspects that the proclivities and activities of too many priests have been ignored rather than reprimanded.

I hate hypocrisy.

I suppose I have been guilty of taking Hepworth's side uncritically, but I suppose too that, when I read the claims he made, the harrowing details seemed to add verisimilitude to them, and corroborated them. I would not call them pornographic, since their purpose was not to titillate, just as a medical documentary could show images of normally concealed parts for educative reasons, or a murder trial could detail vile violence in order to secure a conviction.

Please, Father, pray for me, and for all affected by this dreadful mess. I will pray also for you, and ask forgiveness for any offence.

Joshua said...

Note: Tony, I don't intend to post your comments: I have always disliked them.

Joshua said...

A priest reminds me that, while we fear exceedingly for the salvation of those who have done most wickedly, thinking them more than likely to have heard Christ say unto their souls, Depart from Me, ye accursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the Devil and his angels; yet still we ought pray that, by the mercy of God, ere they died they received and accepted the grace of repentance for all their sins and crimes, and were saved from everlasting damnation - saved from the fire, and consigned to such a Purgatory as would burn away their stains and evils. We should not wish Hell on any man, howsoever evil, for God is merciful as well as just, and can work that miracle greater than creation: He can convert the sinner from sin to righteousness. While it would seem all too certain that Hitler, to instance one most vile, was damned, we cannot know on earth whether or not he may have repented and turned to the Lord in the moment after he pulled the trigger: it seems unlikely, but not impossible. So too, even those wretched priests who abuse children - and let them tremble at the prospect of Christ sitting in judgement on their souls - may, by grace, repent and be saved, yet so as through fire. For every man knows that the least pain of Purgatory is greater far than the worst pain of earth. "Amen, amen, you shall not get out unless you pay the last penny."

Albertus said...

Joshua, you write ''it is in our fractured families that abuse is most prevalent; indeed, as a friend put it, to stamp out pedophilia, stamp out de facto partners.''
I donot understand to what you refer with ''de facto partners''. Being well acquainted both personally and professionally with sexual abuse in the family, i can tell you that it has been happening since forever, that it happens in otherwise perfectly ordinary, even exemplary, families, indeed, even in ''devout' church-going families. Though the man in the family is more likely to molest his own children - children of both sexes, indiscriminately - the woman in the family is not seldom also guilty of incest and sexual abuse of those in her charge. Sojmething that society has never been wiling to face. The only solution is to begin to bring family sexual abuse out into the open, as in the past decade ecclesiastical sexual abuse has been brought out into the open. Who in this situation of father, mother and children within marriage can be ''stamped out'' of the equation in order to stamp out sexual abuse of minors? I wouldn't know!

Joshua said...

Albertus - how horrible it is that what you say is true!

I referred to statistics mentioned to me, which were said to show that sexual abuse was more likely to be carried out by a single parent's unmarried partner of the moment ("Mum's boyfriend" or "de facto") rather than by a spouse. I think the implication was that the incest taboo, while alas not sufficient to make sexual abuse of a person's own children totally abhorrent to each and every person, does not hold anywhere near so much sway over one cohabiting with an adult who has children of their own.