The Catholic Church paid $276 million to victims of alleged sex abuse committed by priests in Australia over decades, an investigation says.
Critics say the system of payments is unfair and not all victims receive the same opportunities or compensation.
Since 2013, the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has been holding hearings on alleged Catholic Church sex abuse of children – mostly boys.
“Catholic Church authorities made total payments of [AU]$276.1 million [US$213million] in response to claims of child sexual abuse received between 1 January 1980 and 28 February 2015, including monetary compensation, treatment, legal and other costs,” the statement from the commission said on Thursday.
On average, sex abuse victims received AU$91,000 in compensation, it stated.
The Christian Brothers religious community “reported both the highest total payment and the largest number of total payments $48.5 million paid in relation to 763 payments at an average of approximately $64,000 per payment,” the document said.
The report added that the Jesuits “had the highest average total payment at an average of approximately $257,000 per payment (of those Catholic Church authorities who made at least 10 payments).”
Read analysis of Catholic Church Authorities’ data on claims of child abuse https://t.co/4AYWsYEytb
— CA Royal Commission (@CARoyalComm) February 15, 2017
“Even though the church has paid $270 million and it took a long time to get its act together to do that, there’s no doubt the system of paying people and compensating them is best done independently of the church through a national redress scheme,”the Church’s Truth Justice and Healing Council chief executive, Francis Sullivan, told AAP.
Sullivan said that not all victims have equal opportunities or compensation.
“Some congregations pay far more than others. Some dioceses pay far more than others. It’s still not a fair system,” he added.
It’s a picture of great unfairness and inequity between survivors across Australia depending on where they placed their claim,” Helen Last, CEO of In Good Faith Foundation, which represents 460 abuse victims, told Reuters.
The commission was established in 2013 to investigate instances and allegations of child sexual abuse in Australia. This month’s report says that between January 1980 and February 2015, 93 Catholic Church authorities received claims of child sexual abuse from 4,445 people.
It managed to identify 1,880 alleged perpetrators, who included 597 (32 percent) ‘religious brothers,’572 (30 percent) priests, 543 (29 percent) lay people, and 96 (5 percent) ‘religious sisters.’ At least 90 percent of the alleged perpetrators were male, according to the report.
Sexual abuse scandals have long dogged the Catholic Church. In 2014, the Vatican said 3,420 credible accusations of sexual abuse committed by priests had been referred to it over the past 10 years, and that 824 clerics were defrocked as a result.
In January, Pope Francis called for “zero tolerance”towards sex crimes against children, and condemned it as “a sin that shames” both the perpetrators and those who cover up for their crimes.