PM - Thursday, 12 August , 2004 18:39:11
Reporter: Tanya Nolan
MARK COLVIN: The Anglican diocese of Adelaidetoday released its response to a damning independent inquiry about itshandling of church abuse. But as it did so, another former priest wasarrested over child sex offences.
The arrest of the 69-year-oldis the latest in a crackdown by the South Australian Police paedophiletaskforce. It's now arrested 17 people including a number of churchworkers.
Tanya Nolan reports.
TANYA NOLAN: Thismorning's arrest of another former South Australian priest for allegedchild sex offences could be seen as a blow in the Anglican Church'sattempts to fix its problems.
Not so, says administrator of the Adelaide diocese, Archdeacon John Collas.
JOHNCOLLAS: Absolutely no. We asked the police to set up the police, ah,the paedophile task group and we are pleased they are able to bringthese people to court.
TANYA NOLAN: Since the independent boardof inquiry was commissioned by the diocese to look at its handling ofsexual abuse, the church has been proactive in addressing its failures,and it's adopted all but two of the 13 or so recommendations made. Buttoday it went a bit further, establishing a new process of pastoralsupport and practical assistance to victims.
JOHN COLLAS: Thatincludes pastoral apology, practical assistance and acknowledgement oftheir abuse, and it will include a financial settlement of some sort.Every person will need and receive a different sort of settlement.
TANYANOLAN: Archdeacon Collas is careful not to use the word compensationand lawyer Peter Humphries, representing more than 70 victims of churchabuse, says that's because he suspects the payment will only be a tokengesture.
PETER HUMPHRIES: We've had discussions with the church,wanting to know what the parameters were of this process so we couldadvise our clients. But we're not able to get any indication at all,other than it's not compensation, it's financial assistance, whateverthat means.
TANYA NOLAN: But that's not to say that PeterHumphries thinks the whole "healing steps" initiative is flawed. Infact he says in many cases, all victims want is some recognition andredress from the church.
However, he says it won't stop him from seeking $63-million in compensation for his clients.
Churchwhistleblower, Don Owers, who helped bring many of the serious cases ofabuse to light, agrees that the church must be serious about the issueof financial rectitude.
DON OWERS: If, as this process unfoldsand people start to pick it up, it gets around that the church is justbeing totally unrealistic, then of course people will see it as anattempt to avoid huge compensation payouts.
TANYA NOLAN: But Don Owers says an even greater danger for the diocese is to ignore its victims further.
DONOWERS: They are the people who can best advise us how we can help themand others. If we don't take notice of that I think that's just stupidto be honest.
TANYA NOLAN: Archdeacon Collas admits that none of the victims were consulted in putting together the healing steps protocol.
JOHN COLLAS: We have read, listened to, consulted victims' systems rather than the victims themselves.
TANYANOLAN: Much of the criticism of the church in the board of inquiryreport relates to a failure by the church to take seriously thecomplaints made by victims.
JOHN COLLAS: That's right.
TANYA NOLAN: Why wouldn't you consult victims on the way that you address this problem?
JOHN COLLAS: I'm not sure that we could've, that we could have done that in the circumstances in which we found ourselves.
We,after the report wanted to move fairly quickly and many of the victimsare in the hands of the lawyers and certainly we can't approach themthrough the lawyer to get advice.
TANYA NOLAN: The AnglicanGeneral Synod, which meets every three years, will sit in October andvote on a new set of recommendations on national procedures to handlesex abuse complaints.
Garth Blake, Chairman of the ChildProtection Committee which drafted them, says it's important that therebe a uniform model for all dioceses to follow, to ensure the churchdeals with such matters in a comprehensive way.
GARTH BLAKE: Weare concerned that if there is differences, particularly of asubstantial nature between dioceses, that victims and the generalpublic will be saying that victims are either worse off or better offdepending on which diocese the abuse occurred in, and it's a situationthat I think the church will, you know, will find difficult to explainas to why there are these differences.
MARK COLVIN: Garth Blake SC, Chairman of the General Synod's Child Protection Committee, ending Tanya Nolan's report.