According to Fairfax, George Pell’s scheme to address sex abuse claims spent far more money on itself that it ever did victims of the church.
According to a Fairfax investigation, the scheme that George Pell established to compensate sex abuse claims against the Melbourne Catholic Church advanced the employees of the scheme, rather than the victims of the church.
Between 1996-2014, the church spent $34.27 million to run the scheme, Melbourne Response, but with only 28% of that money ever going to victims.
As Farrah Tomazin noted, the bulk of the funding was spent on “operational costs”, including $7.8 million (or 23% of the funding) for QC Peter O’Callaghan, who operated as an ‘independent commissioner’, hired to ascertain the integrity of claims against the church, and advise further legal action. Almost $5 million went to legal fees.
A further $11 million was granted to the in-church counselling service, Carelink, with Fairfax believing that “most of which was spent on staff and administration.”
The program essentially broke down like this: O’Callaghan would review the claims, and those deemed with sufficient grounds would then be referred to the compensation panel and Carelink.
The thing to note, however, is that the church purportedly limited the dollar value of compensation claims. As Tomazin stated: “Compensation payments were deliberately capped by the church – first at $50,000, and later lifted to $75,000 – and survivors were required to sign a deed of settlement waiving their right to take civil action.”
O’Callaghan has defended the scheme, stating that it would “a big mistake to attribute the whole of the fees of $7.8 million to my dealing with complaints of child sexual abuse”.
According to O’Callaghan, the scheme also covered the cost of “meeting the constant attacks upon the Melbourne Response generally and the Independent Commissioner in particular…the Melbourne Response was world first innovation in dealing with the issue of clerical child abuse, it was run fairly, efficiently and compassionately and provided a remedy for victims of clerical child sexual abuse, where none had previously existed. Whilst I was Independent Commissioner I dealt with complaints in the order of 400. Only 3 per cent of complaints were not accepted,” Mr O’Callaghan said.
However, critics of the scheme, such as lawyer and advocate Judith Courtin
, who has spent the last decade investigating both Melbourne Response
and Towards Healing
, and how the complaint process affected victims. To her, it “became clear to her there were great difficulties for victims to obtain justice, civil or criminal, and she saw the uncaring response by the Church was actually another form of abuse suffered by victims and their families.”