Sunday, 04 Dec 2022

Catholic church pressuring alleged victims of dead paedophile priests to accept paltry payouts, lawyers say

Catholic church pressuring alleged victims of dead paedophile priests to accept paltry payouts, lawyers say


Catholic church pressuring alleged victims of dead paedophile priests to accept paltry payouts, lawyers say

The Catholic church has adopted an increasingly aggressive approach to alleged victims of now-dead paedophile priests, using recent rulings to pressure survivors to accept "paltry amounts" or risk having their claims permanently blocked, lawyers say.

In June, the New South Wales courts permanently stayed a civil claim brought by a survivor, known as GLJ, who alleged horrific abuse at the hands of Father Clarence Anderson in Lismore in 1968 when she was 14.

The court ruled there could not be a fair trial because Anderson was dead, leaving the church unable to properly respond to the survivor's allegations.

The case was stayed despite documentary evidence that high-ranking church officials knew Anderson was abusing boys at least four years before GLJ's alleged assault, but did not remove him from the clergy, instead shuffling him through parishes where he continued to abuse children.

At the time, law firms that regularly handle child sexual abuse cases predicted the nature of the NSW ruling would "encourage" and "embolden" the church and other institutions to seek permanent stays in the many cases where paedophile clergy had died, even "where evidence indicates a propensity for child abuse".

In the months since, law firms who spoke to the Guardian said they had noticed a change in approach from the church in such cases.

Arnold Thomas & Becker, which is pursuing claims on behalf of more than 700 abuse victims, said defendants - particularly the church - were now frequently threatening to seek stays in such cases.

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