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.
The case has already been cited in a stay application in another abuse case, involving Trinity Grammar School, and the Marist Brothers separately cited the death of an alleged paedophile brother in its successful bid to permanently stay an abuse claim last month.
The child abuse royal commission found significant barriers existed for complainants of child sexual abuse. It found, on average, complainants did not come forward for 20 years and recommended all states remove the limitation period for bringing civil action. All states and territories have since done so.
In Victoria, Price said the recent developments were “against the intention held by parliament in 2015 when they removed the limitations period for child abuse survivors”.