Aussie victims less likely to sue, Church officials say

As the State's court approves Los Angeles archdiocese's record $760 million payout to sex abuse victims, Australian church officials say that the American experience is less likely to be repeated in Australia.

The Age reports that according to the Australian Church's professional standards committee, Australian victims of pedophile priests are less likely to resort to court cases than Americans.

The most important aspect for victims was to have their accounts taken seriously followed by the knowledge that the perpetrator would not be in a position to abuse others, says Sr Angela Ryan, the committee's prevention officer.

The Los Angeles archdiocese has announced it will pay out $A760 million in compensation to settle 508 complaints.

In his first public statement since the archdiocese's record settlement, Cardinal Roger Mahony said that he wished the victims' lives were like a "VHS tape" in which misery could be deleted, the Los Angeles Times says.

But lawyers and advocates for the victims said that they were sceptical of his contrition, noting that the pact announced on Saturday, after over 4 years of negotiations, came just before the first case was set to go to trial, with the cardinal due to testify.

In Australia, Sr Ryan said the church did not keep a central database of figures, but the emphasis of its Towards Healing program was to help people move on.

"You can never eradicate the past, you can only help people move on in the future," Sister Ryan said.

The first step under the program was always to encourage people to report abuse to the police, and to help them do so, but many wanted it dealt with in other ways.

The national church's pastoral projects officer, Bob Dixon, said the clerical abuse scandal had horrified and damaged many faithful, loyal and motivated Catholics.

"But the National Church Life Survey shows they get over the shock quite quickly. They say, 'this shouldn't happen, but we trust our parish priest and we trust the church to do its best'," Mr Dixon said.

US clergy sex abuse payout approved in Court (ABC, 17/7/07)
Australian victims less likely to sue: church (The Age, 16/7/07)
Scepticism over apology (Sydney Morning Herald, 16/7/07)
LA Catholic Church Apologies to Abuse Victims (The Age, 16/7/07)
Commission report urges 'One Church' approach for tackling abuse (Independent Catholic News, 16/7/07)

LINKS (not necessarily endorsed by Church Resources)
Archdiocese of Los Angeles
US Catholic Bishops
National Committee for Professional Standards (ACBC)
Towards Healing (Australian Catholic Bishops Conference)

US abuse crisis past peak (CathNews, 13/7/07)
LA archdiocese sells chancery to fund settlements (CathNews, 17/5/07)
LA Archdiocese settles abuse claims for $A75 million (CathNews, 4/12/07)
LA Cardinal calls sex abuse scandal a 'purification' (CathNews, 2/4/02)

17 Jul 2007