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Church insured for abuse claims

The Catholic Church insured itself for up to $5 million against compensation payouts to victims of sexual abuse years before it devised policies for dealing with allegations of abuse by the clergy.

Catholic Church Insurances prepared a policy insuring the church against damages and compensation for "actual or attempted sexual activity with a child or any other person which constitutes a criminal act".

The policy imposed a limit of $1 million for claims alleged against any one person, and $5 million for all claims.

The figures are included in documents obtained by The Age. Telephone details on the documents indicate the policy was prepared between 1990 and 1994.

However, Catholic Church Insurances general manager Peter Rush said the amounts involved indicated the policy was prepared "earlier in the period rather than later ... the amounts changed substantially". Towards Healing, the church's national policy for dealing with sexual abuse, was established in 1996.

The Bishop of Ballarat, Dr Peter Connors, formerly chairman of the church's professional standards committee, said the insurance cover was prompted by compensation claims in the US, and by allegations that surfaced against disgraced priest Gerald Ridsdale, now jailed for offences against children.

Catholic Church Insurances

The Age

2 Jul 2002