The Catholic Church has paid out $17 million to the victims of 77 pedophile priests and church workers in Melbourne, a royal commission has heard.
The victim of a pedophile priest was discouraged from going to police and felt he had to take a Catholic Church payout, the child abuse royal commission has heard.
The church has paid a combined $17 million in compensation to abuse victims in the Melbourne archdiocese, but only 119 of the 326 upheld complaints have been dealt with by police.
Victims told the royal commission they felt betrayed by the church’s Melbourne Response process, which they said lacked compassion, and called for the $75,000 cap on compensation payments to be scrapped.
A victim of pedophile priest Father Michael Glennon said Melbourne Response independent commissioner Peter O’Callaghan told him the prospects of Glennon doing any more jail time were low and he might not be charged.
“I felt Mr O’Callaghan was trying to discourage me from going to the police,” the man told the commission on Monday.
The man said he felt like he couldn’t win a court case against the church so he took a $50,000 payout, with no explanation for why the compensation was $25,000 less than the maximum.
“I did not think I had any other options for seeking compensation,” he said.
The man did later report Glennon to police but missed his chance to “eyeball” his abuser in court when Glennon died in jail this year before the trial.
Another abuse victim, Paul Hersbach, said Mr O’Callaghan told him he could go to the police but said “based on what you told me, I don’t think anything is going to happen”.
Mr Hersbach, who was abused by the same priest who abused his father and uncle, said the deeds of release tied to Melbourne Response compensation payouts add to victims’ pain and give control back to the church.
“I feel like the church has exerted complete and total control over my life. I find it ironic that at the point where I finally wrested that control back, I signed a document giving up my rights and putting myself again under its control.”
Mr Hersbach and Christine and Anthony Foster, whose two daughters were raped by prolific abuser Father Kevin O’Donnell, want every Melbourne Response compensation case to be reassessed independently with more appropriate payout amounts determined.
The Fosters, who felt betrayed by the church’s handling of their complaints, said the victims who went through the Melbourne Response were paid far too little.
Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart, who will appear before the royal commission, has already pledged to talk to victims about how compensation should be awarded and past cases reviewed.
Victims paid under the church’s Melbourne Response, set up in 1996, have on average received $33,000, compared to the $293,000 for those who took legal action.
The church has paid out $17 million to victims of 77 abusers – the bulk of them priests – in the Melbourne archdiocese.
Another $17 million has gone to paying the costs of the Melbourne Response independent commission and support network.