Melbourne Archdiocese foresees escalating abuse payouts

The Melbourne Archdiocese compensation plan may find itself facing increasingly large payouts to clergy abuse victims.

The current plan was designed to limit financial damage to the Church by having clergy sex abuse survivors sign away their rights to sue the Church.

Known as the Melbourne Response, compensation payments were initially capped at $50,000 when Cardinal George Pell devised the scheme in 1996.

Payments were later raised to $75,000. However, victims had to to sign a deed of settlement waiving their right to take civil action against the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.

A spokesperson for the archdiocese says, despite this deed, the archdiocese has provided “additional redress payments totalling $11.07 million based on a cap of $150,000 to 233 survivors of child sexual abuse”.

These survivors include those whose claims were previously accepted by the Melbourne Response and who received compensation under previous caps.

Although the deed of settlement has not so far been challenged in the state of Victoria (of which Melbourne is the capital), some victims in other Australian states have received hundred-fold increases in payouts after judges set aside their deed of settlement with the church.

But that number could increase. Victoria’s state government is considering following the states of Queensland and Western Australia in providing blanket relief to survivors who have signed so-called releases from liability for the Church.

If it were to do this, survivors would be free to sue for further damages, which would in turn see payouts from the archdiocese climb considerably higher.

Observers have noted in some other states, these payments have increased one hundred-fold.

Australia’s Royal Commission into Child Abuse recommended a maximum payout to victims of $200,000. The National Redress Scheme currently limits payouts to $150,000, but a parliamentary inquiry has recommended this be changed to $200,000.

The Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference backed the $200,000 figure in its submission to the parliamentary inquiry.


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