Churches to count the cost of abuse – 100,000 victims to sue
- The Daily Telegraph
- April 12, 2013
UP to 100,000 people will make claims for compensation in the wake of the royal commission into institutionalised abuse, according to a leading lawyer.
They are pinning their hopes on the commission recommending that a “redress fund” be set up, into which institutions at blame would pay commensurate sums of money.
Lawyer Peter Kelso said the Catholic Church may be forced to sell some of its multi-million dollars worth of land and property holdings to pay its fair share of a fund.
While the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will not be able to make awards of compensation, its terms of reference call on it to find ways so that victims can get redress from institutions.
“The words ‘by institutions’ send the clear message that Australian taxpayers will not be paying a cent,” Mr Kelso said.
He has based his estimate on a figure out of the Victorian parliamentary inquiry into child sexual abuse which has been told there are 10,000 victims in that state alone.
In Ireland, a Redress Board set up following a nine-year inquiry into Catholic Church abuse received more than 16,000 claims.
Mr Kelso said that if that figure was extrapolated to the Australian population, there would be between 70,000 and 100,000 people who would be seeking compensation.
In Ireland, the average award was $82,190. The largest award was $392,704.
Mr Kelso said that it was something that had to be faced.
“It will be an enormous amount of money but my attitude is that the days of token payments of $50,000 have gone. Some clients have been offered as little as $5000 to go away.”
Mr Kelso said compensation was a punishment but also a way to restore the victim to the position they would have been in had their lives not been torn apart by abuse as a child.
He said that he had hundreds of clients who wanted to give evidence to the royal commission, which has foreshadowed hearing from at least 5000 people.
The Irish compensation scheme took into account the severity of the abuse and injury with an additional loading of up to 20 per cent for exceptional cases. It also paid medical expenses and all costs reasonably incurred in making an application.
Mr Kelso said that the Catholic Church was found to be the main perpetrator.
The church’s initial contribution only covered 10 per cent of the total payout and it now has to sell property in the financial crisis that is still going on in Ireland.
“There are lessons to be learned from Ireland and the Australian royal commission will hopefully be looking at these. I expect public pressure in Australia will force the Catholic Church to liquidate a large slice of its substantial real estate holdings,” Mr Kelso said.
The royal commission has said it will be not commenting on public speculation.
One in 20 priests an abuser, inquiry told
- October 23, 2012
- Called for married priests, as are being allowed now in the Anglican ordinariate within the Catholic Church, as a “circuit-breaker” that would reduce child sex abuse. The state should remove the Equal Opportunity Act exemption letting the church discriminate on grounds of marital status, he said.
- Described the Church as “a holy and unholy mess, except where religious sisters or laypeople are in charge, for example schools and welfare agencies”.
- Called for an “eminent Catholic task force” of lay people to work with the Church on reform and transparency.
- Said other religions were not immune from child sex abuse, including credible anecdotal evidence of two incidents within Melbourne’s Hindu community where the offending monks were “shipped back to the home country”.
AT LEAST one in 20 Catholic priests in Melbourne is a child sex abuser, although the real figure is probably one in 15, the state inquiry into the churches’ handling of sex abuse was told yesterday.
RMIT professor Des Cahill said his figures, based on analyzing conviction rates of priests ordained from Melbourne’s Corpus Christi College, closely matched a much larger American analysis of 105,000 priests which found that 4362 were child sex offenders.
The intercultural studies professor also told the inquiry that the Catholic Church was incapable of reforming itself because of its internal culture. He said the Church’s Melbourne Response abuse protocol had to go, and the state would have to intervene to achieve it.
In other key testimony, Professor Cahill:
Professor Cahill said that 14 of 378 Corpus Christi priests graduating between 1940 and 1966 were convicted of child sexual abuse, and church authorities had admitted that another four who had died were also abusers, a rate of 4.76 per cent.
But the actual figure was much higher when under-reporting was taken into account, along with cases dealt with in secret by the Catholic Church. “One in 20 is a minimum. It might be one in 15, perhaps not as high as one in 10,” he said.
He suggested that, though the Church tried to “fudge the figures” by including other church workers, Catholic priests offended at a much higher rate than other men. If the general male population now over 65 offended at the same rate, there would be 65,614 men living in Australia who had been convicted of child sex abuse — very far from the case.
Professor Cahill said the Church’s “culture of caste clericalism” and its pyramid structure rendered it incapable of the systemic reform needed. The organisational culture was “verging on the pathological”.
“Bishops are caught between canon law and civil law, and Rome has put a lot of pressure on bishops to make sure canon law and the rights of priests are being observed, but canon law has nothing to say about the rights of child victims,” he said.
The Melbourne Response — the internal protocol used by the Melbourne archdiocese — was designed to protect the image and reputation of the church and to contain financial liability, and had to be changed. “The church is incapable of reform, so the state will have to do it,” he said
He suggested a new structure involving the Office of the Child Safety Commissioner and a new “eminent Catholics task force”, appointed by the Government, to work with Church leadership. Possible candidates included former Supreme Court judge Frank Vincent, La Trobe professor Joseph Camilleri, former Geelong mayor Frank Costa, former deputy Prime Minister Tim Fischer, Mrs Diana Grollo, state chief health officer Rosemary Lester, retired Ballarat bishop Peter Connors, retired Melbourne priest Eric Hodgens and Australian Catholic University professor Gabrielle McMullin.
Professor Cahill said child sex abuse had existed in all ages, cultures and religions, shrouded in secrecy and poorly responded to by religious authorities. He said a church council in 309 AD was concerned about child sex abuse in monasteries.
One in 11 Victorians identified with a religion other than Christianity, up 68 per cent in 10 years, and Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims and Jews all had issues to do with sex abuse, especially in other countries.
In Sri Lanka, child sex abuse was rampant in Buddhist monasteries, and more than 100 monks had been charged in the past decade. Child sex abuse had been called “India’s time bomb”, especially the plight of street children, while many Muslim communities were in denial, he said. Melbourne Jewish groups were making their own submission to the inquiry.
Catholic Church upheld 618 child sex abuse cases
September 22, 2012
THE Catholic Church in Victoria yesterday admitted that it had upheld 618 cases of criminal child abuse by clergy in the past 16 years.
All but 13 of the cases were before 1990, some dating back to the 1930s, church spokesman Father Shane Mackinlay said. The four Victorian dioceses of the church yesterday lodged a joint submission to the State Parliament inquiry into the handling of child abuse cases by religious and non-government organisations.
Father Mackinlay told The Saturday Age 302 of the 330 cases upheld by the Melbourne Response of the Melbourne Archdiocese applied to criminal child abuse and 310 from the Towards Healing response, which covers the dioceses of Ballarat, Sale and Sandhurst (Bendigo) and the various religious orders. Another 45 cases, though not all children, are still being investigated.
Submissions to the inquiry closed yesterday, with ”hundreds” received, according to Georgie Crozier, the chairwoman of the Parliament’s family and community development committee, which is hearing the inquiry. They came from victims, advocates, churches and other interested groups. Ms Crozier said public hearings would begin next month, continuing in Melbourne and regional areas into next year. The committee is due to report by April 30.
Judy Courtin, a lawyer supporting several victims in their submissions, said that, according to the Victorian Law Reform Commission, only one in 10 victims ever came forward, suggesting a real toll closer to 6500 Victorian victims of clergy sexual abuse.
The Catholic Church yesterday launched a website dedicated to the inquiry, facingthetruth.org.au, and held meetings on Thursday and yesterday to brief clergy, church workers and members of religious orders.
Father Mackinlay said more than 100 turned up yesterday. ”There are 1.5 million Catholics in Victoria, and they all have a stake, they are all affected and many know victims. The message I hear consistently is that hiding behind closed doors makes the problem worse,” he said. In a joint statement about their submission, titled Facing the Truth, the four Victorian diocesan bishops say they will co-operate fully with the inquiry, and they have been open about the horrific abuse. They say they will waive any confidentiality requirements victims may have signed.
”In our submission we discuss the church’s commitment to caring for children, the failures of the church and the developments in society’s and the church’s understanding of the pernicious nature of paedophilia,” the bishops say. ”The submission shows how the church of today is committed to facing up to the truth and to not disguising, diminishing or avoiding the actions of those who have betrayed a sacred trust.”
The Law Institute of Victoria has echoed calls for a full royal commission into clergy abuse, arguing that the parliamentary committee does not have the powers, resources or time to complete a thorough review.
In its submission to the inquiry, the institute also calls for mandatory reporting, legislation requiring organisations to establish compensation funds, and an independent statutory body to monitor how churches respond to complaints of clergy abuse.
Ex-priest James Patrick Jennings is ordered to stand
trial in Melbourne
In the mid and late 1960s, Father James Patrick Jennings was listed as a priest at St Vincent’s College — a Catholic boarding school for boys in Bendigo, 150 kilometres north of Melbourne. Father Jennings was then a member of the Vincentian religious order (this order is also called the Congregation of the Mission).
More than 40 years later, in May 2012, Jennings was charged in the Bendigo Magistrates Court with a series of child-sex offences, allegedly committed against boys at the school in the 1960s.
James Jennings, aged 79 when charged in court, faces multiple charges of gross indecency and indecent assault on a male child aged under 16. The charges relate to three complainants, all students at this Bendigo school in the 1960s.
Magistrate Jennifer Tregent heard evidence concerning the three complainants.
The court also heard from Detective Senior Sergeant Grant Morris, head of the Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team (SOCIT) at Bendigo Police. Senior Sergeant Morris received some information from a New South Wales police unit (Strike Force Belle), which was established to investigate allegations of sexual assaults on students at St Stanislaus College in Bathurst in central-west NSW. The Bathurst school was run by the same order of priests as St Vincent’s in Bendigo.
The court was told that James Jennings left the priesthood many years ago and he now lives in Tasmania.
On 8 May 2012, after a two-day preliminary hearing, the Bendigo magistrate ordered James Patrick Jennings to stand trial in a higher court on these charges. The magistrate listed the case for a later date in the Melbourne County Court, where initially a judge would have a brief “directions hearing” (to determine when and how the subsequent hearings would be held).
Jennings’ bail was extended pending the Melbourne County Court proceedings.
Meanwhile, the Sexual Offences and Child Abuse Investigation Team at Bendigo (telephone 03 5448 1420) is continuing its inquiries.
St Vincent’s College was set up in Bendigo in 1955 and was run by the Vincentian Fathers. In 1977, it was taken over by the Marist Brothers. In 1983 this school then became part of Catholic College Bendigo.