Australian Catholic Church – actual as against stated wealth

The Australian Catholic Church wealth has been investigated by media. The amount the investigation turned up is significantly greater than the Church admits.

The Age – a daily newspaper that has been published in Melbourne since 1854 – undertook the six-month investigation.

It  found the Church is far wealthier than it asserted to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The Age says the Australian Catholic Church claimed “grossly undervalued” its property holdings. It says the Church told the Royal Commission increased payments to abuse survivors could require cuts to its social programmes.

The investigation found the Church is the biggest non-government property owner in Victoria and one of the largest property owners in Australia: Church wealth in Victoria alone is over AUD$9 billion.

Other assets the investigation took into account include: Catholic Church Insurance Ltd (established in 1911); a number of Catholic Development Funds (CDF) valued at several billion dollars – with the Melbourne CDF valued at over a billion dollars; investments, including in superannuation and telecommunications; and a funds management portfolio of over $1.4 billion.

The investigation claims the Church’s Victoria portfolio alone is estimated to be about $9 billion.

In contrast, the Melbourne Archdiocese told the Royal Commission in 2014 it valued its Melbourne properties at just $109 million.

Asked by the Royal Commission specifically to nominate a value for the assets of the Church and its associated entities, the Melbourne Archdiocese communications director Shane Healy said such information was “not available”.

The investigation also found the Royal Commission heard the compensation scheme Archbishop George Pell established 20 years ago provided a maximum of $35,000 to those who had been abused by clergy.

In all, $11.3 million has been paid to 324 survivors of child sexual abuse.

The investigation contrasts the compensation payments to other Church spending. As an example, it found that in 2015, the Melbourne archdiocese paid $39 million – more than three times the total amount it has paid out in compensation to sexual abuse victims – for new premium offices. The offices are located in the heritage-listed Industry House in East Melbourne, near St Patrick’s Cathedral.

“These figures confirm what we have known; there is huge inequity between the Catholic Church’s wealth and their responses to survivors,” says Helen Last, chief executive of the In Good Faith Foundation, which supports abuse survivors.

“The 600 survivors registered for our Foundation’s services continue to experience minimal compensation and lack of comprehensive care in relation to their church abuses. They say their needs are the lowest of Church priorities.”

Healy argues the Church’s meeting the claims of survivors whose complaints of abuse were upheld was “amongst its highest priorities”.

He said that since that report the church had paid an extra $17.2 million to survivors.

Fairfax Media, which owns and publishes The Age, published the investigation results across several media channels yesterday.




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