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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 May, 2003, 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK
Hollingworth criticised in report
Peter Hollingworth
Mr Hollingworth is Queen Elizabeth's representative in Australia

Australian Governor-General Peter Hollingworth, the former Archbishop of Brisbane, has been criticised for allowing a priest to continue his ministry despite knowing the man was a child abuser.

An independent report issued to the Queensland state parliament said that during his time as an Anglican archbishop, Mr Hollingworth was given clear evidence that Reverend John Elliot had committed sexual offences against young boys.

The report rejected Mr Hollingworth's defence that he believed the abuse was an isolated incident.

Since the matter came to light, there have been repeated calls for Mr Hollingworth to resign as governor-general, a post which makes him Queen Elizabeth's representative in Australia.

But Prime Minister John Howard came to Mr Hollingworth's defence on Thursday, saying he would not ask for his removal over the incident.

He said Mr Hollingworth had already acknowledged his error, and had not been accused of "deliberate misconduct" that would warrant his dismissal.

'Serious error of judgement'

"The board considers that no bishop acting reasonably could have reached the decision to continue a known paedophile in the ministry," the report said.

"There were no extenuating circumstances nor can the board imagine any that could have justified his continuance."

Mr Hollingworth said he accepted the board's decision, and acknowledged he had made a "serious error of judgement" in not dismissing Elliot.

He apologised to the victim and his family, but said his decision was "made in good faith".

"All victims of sexual abuse by members of the church deserve nothing less than the total commitment of the church to deal with these issues promptly, openly and in the best interests of the victim," Mr Hollingworth said.

Elliot, who is now in jail for sexual offences, confessed his actions to Mr Hollingworth, and the story was subsequently backed up by a complainant, the report said.

But Mr Hollingworth allowed Elliot to continue working as a priest, as long as he saw a psychiatrist and stopped working with children.

The report was commissioned last year, after Mr Hollingworth was criticised for his failure to act on abuse complaints about two church-run schools.

The enquiry also examined eight other complaints of sexual abuse against clergy and church workers, most of which it said were dealt with fairly.

But Mr Hollingworth was also criticised for not showing enough compassion towards a woman who said she had a sexual relationship with a priest when she was only 15.

The report was divided over whether Mr Hollingworth should have taken action against the priest, who later became a bishop.

A series of Anglican and Catholic clergymen around the world have been investigated in recent years, as churches crack down on past child abuse.

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