Church Sorry for Sex Abuse
The Age [Australia]
August 5, 2006
A woman whose sexual abuse claims led to the resignation of former governor-general Peter Hollingworth finally has received an apology from the Anglican church.
Beth Heinrich was abused as a teenage schoolgirl by Reverend Donald Shearman in the central western NSW town of Forbes in the 1950s.
Half a century later, the Diocese of Bathurst has apologised.
But Ms Heinrich still wants apologies from Mr Shearman and Dr Hollingworth, whom she accused of ignoring her requests for help when he was Archbishop of Brisbane in 1995 and again in 2000.
"I've waited 50 years for this apology. It's very extensive and it shows Shearman up for what he was. He was a criminal, but he's never been charged," Ms Heinrich said.
"I want him to say sorry for messing up my life and to show me he was out of line big time."
Dr Hollingworth has apologised for claiming on ABC television the abuse was a sexual affair initiated by 14-year-old Ms Heinrich in 1954 at St John's Hostel in Forbes.
But he has not apologised to her for ignoring her or for allowing Mr Shearman to continue preaching in his position as Bishop of Rockhampton.
Several other allegations that Dr Hollingworth covered up further cases of sexual abuse led to his resignation as governor-general in May 2003.
"Hollingworth hasn't shown me he's sorry," she said.
"He can show me he's sorry by paying my legal fees which I was forced to get because he refused to deal with me."
Ms Heinrich, 66, faces an $18,000 bill from law firm Slater and Gordon for representing her in her bid for compensation from the church.
She is satisfied with the written apology from Bishop of Bathurst Richard Hurford but wonders why she had to wait so long.
"On behalf of the Anglican diocese of Bathurst, I, Richard Hurford, Bishop of Bathurst unreservedly apologise for the unethical behaviour of Donald Shearman in his capacity as warden of St John's Hostel, Forbes, during the years 1954, '55 and '56," Bishop Hurford wrote.
"I refer particularly to the actions of Rev Shearman in relation to the initiation and continuation of sexual abuse and moral corruption of a minor, a school girl in his official care.
"The abuse, which is acknowledged by Rev Shearman, lasted for a period in excess of two years.
"At the end of this time, Rev Shearman vilified his victim, lied to others, including her parents, expelled her from St John's Hostel, truncated her education and initiated the rumour that she was promiscuous.
"The long term effects of this abuse and corruption were to cause profound and lasting damage to the schoolgirl's emotional, psychological and spiritual development throughout her adult life.
"Beth, the diocese of Bathurst abhors sexual abuse and regrets deeply your pain and suffering caused by this shameful behaviour."
Mr Shearman's wife, Fay, said her husband, 80, would not come to the phone to comment on the apology.
"Definitely not, no comment," Mrs Shearman said.
Ms Heinrich says she has never received an apology from Mr Shearman who became the first bishop in Australia to be defrocked for sex offences in August 2004.
He first had sex with Ms Heinrich when she was 15 and repeatedly told her he would leave his wife to be with the teenager.
Even though he expelled her from the hostel when she was 17, they remained in contact and their affair continued on a sporadic basis into the 1980s when he lived with her for a brief period.
After telling him she was pregnant with his baby in 1984, he told her he could no longer be with her and she subsequently had a miscarriage.
"He stole every opportunity that a schoolgirl would have in front of her. How can you forgive someone for stealing your life away from you?" she said.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.