THE Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has heard Catholic Church authorities have paid $276.1 million in victim compensation, treatment and other costs in the past 35 years.
Counsel assisting the commission Gail Furness, told a commission hearing on February 16 that Church authorities had made the payments to thousands of child sexual abuse victims who came forward between 1980 and 2015.
The average amount of financial compensation was $91,000.
The Christian Brothers made both the highest total payment and the largest number of payments – 763 payments totalling $48.5 million with an average payment of $64,000.
Of Church groups, which paid at least 10 claims, the Jesuits reported the highest average amount, totalling $257,000 per payment.
The Archdiocese of Brisbane made 88 payments totalling $3 million, at an average payment of $34,000.
Claimants who took civil action against the Church received higher payments than those who used other redress methods, with $151,000 per claimant on average.
Ms Furness told the hearing the number of claims between 1980 and 2015 had risen to 4445 since initial data was released on February 6.
The average time between the alleged abuse and the date of claim was 33 years.
“The total number of incidences of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church institutions in Australia is likely to be greater than the claims made,” Ms Furness said.
Of the 4445 claims, 2854 resulted in monetary compensation although the inquiry heard a “significant number of claims” were ongoing at the time of the research project.
Schools were identified in 46 per cent of all claims and children’s homes were named in about one-third of claims.
Five religious orders – the Christian Brothers, the De La Salle Brothers, the Marist Brothers, the Patrician Brothers and the St John of God Brothers – were involved in 41 per cent of claims.
The research, by the commission with the assistance of the Church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council, analysed claims data from 1980 to 2015 together with information about ministry staff from 1950 to 2010.
The analysis found 55 per cent of priests who were alleged perpetrators were not placed on administrative leave and 51 per cent were not placed on restricted ministry.
The data showed there has been a “massive drop-off” in the incidence of alleged child sexual abuse in the Church since the 1970s.
There was a decrease in the number of claims in Catholic schools from more than 600 in the 1970s to about 25 in the 2010s.
The data also showed a decrease in the number of alleged clerical perpetrators from a peak in the 1960s of more than 400 to less than 10 in the 2010s.
“From the 1950s to the current time this report chronicles human damage and misery at the hands of the Catholic Church,” Truth, Justice and Healing Council chief executive officer Francis Sullivan said.
“We know that far more people were abused than have come forward.
“These statistics are not the full story and, if anything, are understated rather than overstated.
“Importantly, the data shows the amount of time alleged perpetrators remained in dioceses and religious orders.”
On the issue of the differences in redress payments, Mr Sullivan said: “There is one view that will contend people were pushed into Towards Healing and the Melbourne Response because the payments were low and it saved the Church millions of dollars”.
“There is another view that people went to Towards Healing and the Melbourne Response because they had no other options, because they had limited recollections and little evidence to pursue a legal claim,” he said.
“Wherever the truth lies, what is clear is that payments made to survivors from Church authorities over many years have varied widely and that there has been no consistency in how much they received.
“This is at the very heart of the call by survivors and many others, including the Catholic Church, for a national independent redress scheme, co-ordinated by the Commonwealth Government which will determine redress payments to be paid by the institution in which the abuse took place.”
Mr Sullivan said a full analysis of this data would form the basis for policy developments in the Church.
“We will learn from it and use it as further impetus for change in the Church, as a basis for better policies and procedures,” he said.
“That analysis will happen soon but right now is the time for the Church to be humble, receptive and in a state of confession.”