• Former church leader Peter Hollingworth admits he poorly handled a complaint of sexual abuse. (AAP)
Former governor-general Peter Hollingworth has apologised for his "poor" response as a church leader handling sex abuse complaints.
Source:
AAP
3 Feb 2016 - 3:30 AM  UPDATED 3 Feb 2016 - 6:58 PM

Former Australian governor-general Peter Hollingworth admits that in 1993 he was more worried about the welfare of a pedophile priest than a young victim, and 23 years later has offered a personal apology for his poor handling of the matter.

A 47-year-old man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, on Wednesday gave evidence to a royal commission hearing that through his childhood connection with Brisbane's St Barnabas Anglican Church at Sunnybank and the Church of England Boys' Society, he was sexually abused by then-lay preacher John Elliot in the 1980s.

As a young adult in 1993, by which time Elliot had been ordained a priest and appointed rector of Dalby parish, the victim took his complaint to Dr Hollingworth who was then archbishop of the diocese of Brisbane.

He told Dr Hollingworth that Elliot was a pedophile who had abused him repeatedly over a number of years and that he should not be permitted to have any further contact with the public.

"From that first meeting onward I felt that Dr Hollingworth did not want to remove Elliot from the Dalby parish, and that ... I should forgive him and move on," the victim said.

Dr Hollingworth admitted on Wednesday that his response was inadequate, although he added he couldn't have just sacked Elliot.

"I want to make an apology to (the victim) and to all the members of his family for the way which his complaint of abuse against John Elliot was handled when it was first referred to me as archbishop of Brisbane in 1993," Dr Hollingworth told the commission hearing in Hobart.

"After a great deal of consideration over the past 22 years I acknowledge unreservedly that my actions were misguided, wrong and a serious error of judgment and that I genuinely regret it."

He added that at the time he did not understand the repercussions of child sexual abuse.

"I failed to make your needs my absolute first priority," he said.

"Instead, I was overly concerned for the needs of Elliot and his family and those of the parish."

Dr Hollingworth confronted Elliot with the allegations in 1993 and the priest admitted his wrongdoing but insisted he had not offended since ordination.

A psychiatrist subsequently assessed Elliot and told Dr Hollingworth there was no treatment or cure for pedophilia and that the "disorder" would likely recur.

The church imposed conditions on Elliot including that he not spend any time alone with boys.

Elliot retired as Dalby rector in 1996 and has since been jailed for offences against seven boys.

Dr Hollingworth became governor-general in June 2001, a position he relinquished in 2003 in response to the church's handling of the abuse allegations.

Former head of the Adelaide diocese, Bishop Ian Gordon George, also apologised on Wednesday for his handling of reports naming layman Robert Brandenburg as a sexual predator.

The commission continues its hearing on Thursday.