SA Church offers payout to abuse victims
South Australia's Catholic Church has created legal history by offering an unconditional $2 million compensation package to victims of child sex abuse.
The Advertiser newspaper is reporting this morning that offers will be delivered today to more than 30 families of young boys who allegedly were abused by a bus driver at a Catholic school for the intellectually disabled between 1987 and 1991.
It says the offers are unprecedented in that they do not contain any confidentiality clauses and recipients do not have to waive their rights to take legal action against the church for compensation.
Full details of the package will be revealed today by the Archbishop of Adelaide, Philip Wilson, who is understood to have ignored legal and insurance advice not to make the offers on such an unencumbered basis.
Instead, he has decided to offer compensation to families under the church's Towards Healing process of dealing with victims of child sex abuse at amounts which exceed those recommended by lawyers and insurers.
The decision has national significance, as past church payouts to victims across Australia have included confidentiality clauses barring them from discussing details with third parties. Previous payouts also have been made on the strict condition victims agree not to take any further legal action or to seek more compensation.
Archbishop Wilson yesterday declined to comment, but the newspaper said it understands he has been the driving force behind the compensation package, which will be funded from within the Catholic Archdiocese of Adelaide.
"He has been adamant, right from the beginning of this terrible saga, that the victims and their families must be looked after by the church," said a senior church official, who asked not to be named.
"He has has made it very clear to all of us that every effort is to be made to provide all the support that we can, pastorally and financially".
Archdiocese of Adelaide
Adelaide archbishop talks to MP on confessional confidentiality (22/9/03)
New threat to confessional seal (18/9/03)
Editorial: Custody battles and the welfare of children (The Advertiser)
Adelaide archbishop welcomes paedophile's "appropriate" jail sentence (15/9/03)
Archbishop says fine-tuning making abuse protocol more 'victim-friendly' (3/7/03)
Towards Healing - Principles and procedures in responding to complaints of abuse against personnel of the Catholic Church of Australia
Confessional Sanctity Targeted in Australian State (cnsnews.com)
New complaint against convicted [NZ] paedophile priest (NZPA/stuff.co.nz)
24 Sep 2003