Decades of abuse by Catholic Church clergy and the church’s woeful response to complaints is finally being exposed at the Child Abuse Royal Commission.
The Catholic Church has established the Truth, Justice and Healing Council to co-ordinate a response to the findings in Catholic Church Royal Commission cases.
In the words of the council: “The Church’s history has involved crimes, cover-ups, failures of leadership and a careless disregard for some of the most defenceless members of our community, children.”
“The Catholic Church in Australia comprises a broad group of assemblies, including Archdiocese, Diocese, religious institutions and societies. It’s a common misconception that Cardinal George Pell is the former head of the Catholic Church in Australia, however, the Church does not have a single person in charge here”
The church has introduced two programs to attempt to handle complaints of Catholic Church child abuse: the Melbourne Response, developed specifically for the Archdiocese of Melbourne; and Towards Healing, a national protocol.
The Melbourne Response was introduced in 1996 by Cardinal George Pell. In his evidence to the Royal Commission in 2014, Pell acknowledged that the Melbourne Response’s self-imposed cap of $75,000 compensation was grossly inadequate. Despite that acknowledgement, the Archdiocese of Melbourne has yet to overturn this cap.
In a report released in 2015, the Royal Commission was also critical of aspects of the Towards Healing process. It highlighted a case in which an abuse survivor was forced to sign a gag order, which the Commission stated was inconsistent with the Towards Healing principles.
“Kelso Lawyers have represented survivors in claims against a broad number of Catholic Church assemblies, including the Archdiocese of Sydney, Archdiocese of Brisbane, Archdiocese of Perth, Diocese of Wollongong, Christian Brothers, Marist Brothers, De La Salle Brothers, St John of God Brothers, Servite Friars, Sisters of Mercy and Daughters of Charity”
We have represented many survivors whose offenders have been convicted of abuse. These offenders include: Brother Gregory Sutton, a former Marist Brother; Father John Denham, a priest within the Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle; Brother Martin Harmata, a former Patrician Brother; Frank Klep, a former priest of the Salesians of Don Bosco; and Neville Creen, a priest of the Diocese of Townsville. Other offenders, such as Father Patrick Cusack of the Diocese of Canberra-Goulburn, died before allegations of abuse came to light.
There are ongoing police investigations into several other alleged incidences abuse within the Catholic church involving our clients and others.