Archbishop Coleridge told the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse yesterday that it was wrong that insurers and lawyers had determined how much victims were paid out.
His archdiocese had $52 million from which he was prepared to draw for victim payouts.
'In the end, I [as archbishop] decide whether a sum conforms to the criteria of justice and compassion.'
In the strongest statements yet by a senior Australian Catholic Church official about the church’s mishandling of sex abuse claims, Archbishop Coleridge said a 'tsunami' of child sexual abuse allegations had caught bishops and other officials 'like rabbits in a headlight.'The failures of the Towards Healing protocol, in use since 1997, meant other ways of dealing with victim complaints needed to be explored 'if we are serious about coming to the aid of victims,' the archbishop told the hearing.
Bishops and Church officials 'didn’t know how to respond' to child sex abuse allegations, he said. So when lawyers and insurers came forward with seeming solutions, 'They breathed a sigh of relief and said "Yes, that is right".'
The Royal Commission has been examining the case of Mrs Joan Isaacs who was sexually abused from age 14 by the chaplain of her Brisbane convent school in the late 1960s.
Her treatment when she approached the church for an apology, counselling and compensation in 1999 was dictated by lawyers and insurers and was akin to reabuse, the Commission has heard. She received a reparations payment of $30,000.
Archbishop Coleridge said the handling of her case was 'totally unacceptable'.