No cheap deals by church, inquiry told

The Catholic Church has paid compensation to abuse victims even when they would have had difficulty proving legal liability in court, a lawyer has told an inquiry.


The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which is examining how the church’s Towards Healing process worked for abuse complainants, has heard that payments of up to $900,000 were made by the Archdiocese of Sydney.

Patrick Monahan, a solicitor who has represented Catholic Church Insurances Ltd (CCI) at Towards Healing settlements, told the inquiry on Thursday that the company took more than just financial liability into account when agreeing to payments.

“It is not a matter of doing the cheapest deal they can,” Mr Monahan said.

He said justice and compassion were considerations and assessment was complex, dependent on the facts of each case.

Redress or compensation is part of Towards Healing, which was established in 1997 in response to growing numbers of child sex abuse allegations against church personnel.

The commission has heard evidence from four people who went through the process.

DK, one of the four people who gave evidence at the commission, was awarded $88,000, which included money for ongoing counselling.

Mr Monahan said common factors in the question of legal liability were whether those in authority had any earlier knowledge of inappropriate behaviour by the individual or whether there was something which they could have, but did not do, to prevent or minimise the harm.

“If there are neither of the two I would identify it as a case where the victim would have difficulty in establishing a legal liability,” he said.

He said CCI took into account broader pastoral issues, and he would never advise Catholic Church clients that they had no liability but he would say that the victim would have difficulty proving it.

Mr Monahan said he had dealt with other commercial insurers of other non-Catholic organisations and on similar facts they would simply deny indemnity and make no offer at all.

In his statement to the commission presented when the hearing opened in December, DK said that Mr Monahan’s role at Towards Healing was never explained to him and that the solicitor had yelled at him for taking too long.

Mr Monahan said it was not the style he brought to those meetings and apologised if his tone had been sharp.

A recurring issue at Thursday’s hearing was what senior staff at St Augustine’s College in Cairns knew of Brother Ross Murrin’s behaviour at the college, including toward DK.

Murrin is now in jail for offences against children at Sydney schools.

DK has told the commission the then principal at the school, Brother Gerald Burns and former dorm master Brother Andrew Moraghan who attended the mediation session in 2010, denied they knew Murrin had molested him.

DK said he wanted them at mediation to find out why they had not acted to protect other boys from Murrin.

Br Burns, who is now retired, was adamant DK never raised the issue of complaints by other boys during mediation.

Br Moraghan said he only learned that Murrin was molesting children when he was arrested in Sydney in 2008.

Comments are closed.