Justice and compassion come second best

25th Mar 2014

In evidence at the Royal Commission yesterday, Cardinal Pell conceded that justice required that a legal entity be created for victims of clergy abuse to sue.

When Cardinal Pell was asked by the Senior Royal Commissioner, Justice McClelland why this should only be done for future victims, and not for past victims, Cardinal Pell’s only response was to say that he also had a duty to protect the wealth of the church.

By abandoning past victims it is made clear that protecting the Church’s wealth comes ahead of any sense of justice or compassion.

“This proposed corporation sole would give no remedy for most future victims, as well as none for the past victims.” said Dr Andrew Morrison SC, spokesperson for the Australian Lawyers Alliance.

“None of the hundreds, perhaps thousands, of victims who have come forward to the Royal Commission would get a remedy against the Catholic Church.”

Whilst the future corporation sole may appoint and dismiss priests and bishops would instruct them as to how they carry out their duties, the corporation sole would not, according to Cardinal Pell, be responsible for abuse by individual priests.

“The highest court in England and Wales has held the Catholic Church is responsible for the criminal conduct of its priests. However, Cardinal Pell merely said that he thought it a good idea that priests have individual insurance.

“There is a total air of unreality about his views and his proposed remedy would be a sad piece of hypocrisy as far as most victims are concerned.

“There would be no remedy for the past, and no real remedy for the future.”

Cardinal Pell also displayed little understanding that courts award damages based upon the needs of the victim, created by the abuse. When confronted with this fact he conceded that there was nothing wrong with the common law applying to the assessment of damages for victims.

Yet, Towards Healing only offers amounts which in most cases, are derisory, and which he himself in the Ellis case described as ‘grotesque and inappropriate’.

The evidence of Cardinal Pell as to his state of knowledge is clearly at odds with that of four senior advisers in the Ellis case, two being the Director of Professional Standards at different times, one being his Chancellor, and the other his Secretary at the time. The Royal Commissioners will have to determine who is telling the truth.

“The most serious concern is that the Church remains wedded to protecting its treasure ahead of children in its care,” said Dr Morrison SC.

The Church gives its clergy great authority over their victims; appointed and dismissed them and determined how they carried out their duties. When asked by Justice McClelland why the Church should not liable for the consequences, Cardinal Pell simply asserted his duty to protect the Church’s assets.

It is now clear that the apparent concessions emanating from Cardinal Pell and from Francis Sullivan, of Truth Healing and Reconciliation, are simply empty gestures not intended to help past victims, and which would help very few future victims.

“Legislation to deal with unjust limitation periods, and make the Trustees of the Church (holding its property) able to be sued, making them responsible for the priests that the church appoints, should now be recommended and pursued in all Australian states and territories.

“Cardinal Pell said it would be unfair to treat the Catholic Church differently from other organisations. The Australian Lawyers Alliance agrees.

“The Catholic Church is the only major organisation in Australia claiming immunity from suit and no responsibility for its clergy. It is time to end the legal abuse of victims superimposed upon sexual abuse by clergy,” said Dr Andrew Morrison SC.

Tags: Compensation Access to justice Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse