The Catholic Church is paying more to its PR agency Royce Communications than any individual victim which is not a good look, as Bernard Barrett explains.

This means that, in just three months Pell pays more to his spin-doctors ($60,000) than he paid to any victim during his time as the archbishop of Melbourne, where he established a limit of $50,000 gross per victim (since increased to $55,000 but with an average payout of only $28,000 per victim).

Furthermore, on Saturday 8 June, the Melbourne and Sydney archdioceses spent $100,000 on putting advertisements into the Sydney and Melbourne newspapers, denying that church sex-abuse victims are required to sign secrecy clauses when accepting compensation payouts.

Within 24 hours, the Sydney Sun Herald published a public compensation agreement between the church and a NSW female victim, in which the victim was indeed required to remain silent about the abuse and about the payout — otherwise (according to the agreement) she would have to pay the money back to the church. This agreement was signed only a month ago. This victim was a disabled woman who gave birth to a child after being sexually abused by a Catholic priest in the NSW diocese of Lismore 19 years ago

And, according to this agreement the church paid a measly $15,000 last month to the disabled woman. Over the 19 years, this woman’s payout of $15,000 works out at $789 per year or $15 per week a lot less than the church pays to its spindoctors.

In national newspapers on Monday 10 June 2002, the Catholic Church admitted that, yes, many of its sex-abuse victims have been silenced by confidentiality clauses included in their compensation agreements. Caught lying, church leaders were embarrassed. Next day, Tuesday 11 June, the Sydney Morning Herald reported: “Church leaders and Towards Healing executives did not return calls yesterday. The only person available to comment on the church’s behalf appeared to be Peter Mahon from Royce Communications, the public relations company hired by Dr Pell.”

Jesus never bothered to hire a public relations firm but it seems that each Australian Catholic diocese has one. The Launceston Examiner, 7 June 2002, ran a public relations piece saying nice things about a convicted paedophile priest, Father Paul Connolly. The story, giving the viewpoint of the Hobart diocese, was issued by Michael Mazengarb, managing mirector of Mazengarb Leo Burnett, described as “a leading Tasmanian advertising and multi-media company”. This firm’s clients in the 1990s have included: Carlton & United Breweries; the Small Concern Whiskey Distillery; and Tote Tasmania. These are the kind of firms (and religious leaders) that Jesus would have tossed out of the Temple.

George Pell was due to be in Rome in the second week of June, but, instead, on June 12 he was locked in conference at St Mary’s Cathedral House, continuing damage control over the church’s recent handling of the sex abuse scandal. Called to an extraordinary meeting at short notice, more than 140 priests from the Sydney Archdiocese converged on St Mary’s headquarters. The Sydney Morning Herald’s religious affairs writer, Kelly Burke, reported that the agenda items included: the events of the previous two weeks – the press conferences, claims and counter-claims involving allegations of hush money, and the confusion surrounding a document which, when misunderstood or mishandled, still suggests the church seeks to buy the silence of its victims of sex abuse.

The past couple of weeks have been a public relations disaster for the Catholic hierarchy. Here are links to some of the stories:-

Exposed: The clause that contradicts Pell

By Frank Walker, Sydney Sunday Sun-Herald, June 9, 2002

A disabled woman who said she became pregnant after being raped by a Catholic priest had to sign a secrecy clause before the Church would pay her $15,000 compensation. The deal, authorised by a NSW bishop [in the Lismore diocese] last month, contradicts Sydney Archbishop George Pell’s statements that victims were not prevented from discussing such abuse. The legal agreement for compensation between the woman and the Church bars her from talking about the incident. It bars her relatives or advisers from talking, and Church employees and agents are also bound by silence. If she did talk, the document says, she would have to repay the $15,000.


Church fails its own sex abuse rules

By Kelly Burke, Religious Affairs Writer, Sydney Morning Herald, June 11, 2002

The Catholic Church was first alerted to individual Catholic dioceses’ failure to follow national sex abuse protocols more than two years ago, by one of the church’s senior bishops. Yet nothing was done to address the problem. Sydney auxiliary bishop, the Most Rev Geoffrey Robinson, spoke publicly about the lack of a uniform response to the national Towards Healing process in September 1999, almost three years after the sex abuse protocol was first implemented. “The Catholic Church is not a monolith,” Bishop Robinson said. “The response from some dioceses is excellent; from others it’s very bad. It’s hard to ensure every diocese responds correctly; and when they don’t, it’s true the process can be as abusive as the abuse.”


Sex victim: I was paid for silence

Melbourne Sunday Herald Sun, 9 June 2002

FRESH evidence has emerged that victims of pedophile priests were silenced as part of cash settlements with the Catholic Church. Archbishop George Pell’s claim that his church has never paid hush money to sexual assault victims was challenged this week by a man who was raped by a priest over a period of years in a Catholic orphanage in Geelong. Bill Davis, 52, of Shepparton, was paid $75,000 by the Catholic Church in 1999, 40 years after the assaults. It was a condition of the payment that he sign a legal document agreeing to repay the money if he spoke of the settlement or assaults, or allowed them to be publicised.


Priest fathered children by teen

By Russel Robinson, Herald Sun, Melbourne, 5 June 2002

ARCHBISHOP George Pell counselled a Melbourne woman who fell pregnant to a priest when she was 15. A year after the meeting, the woman signed a compensation agreement with the church which stipulated she not divulge information about her ordeal. The agreement was signed in July 1996, the year Dr Pell became Archbishop of Melbourne. The woman told the Herald Sun she’d had two children to the priest in the late 1960s. He was the Catholic chaplain in a major Melbourne hospital and ran youth groups. She said they first met when she was a troubled 15-year-old and he’d taken her confession. The priest was in his 30s. They began having sex and she fell pregnant to him, but miscarried. Four years later they had a son, and within 12 months a daughter. The woman’s revelations yesterday came as the Catholic Church continued to fend off calls for a public independent inquiry into sex assaults by priests and alleged cover-ups.


Perks for shamed priest

By Ellen Whinnett, The Mercury, Hobart, 6 June 2002

TASMANIA’S Catholic Church has supplied a convicted pedophile priest with a car. And the church has confirmed that it paid compensation to the woman the priest abused — but included a confidentiality clause which prevented her talking about it. The revelations come days after Sydney’s Archbishop George Pell denied he had paid “hush money” to victims of clergy abuse in Victoria who received compensation after agreeing to keep the settlements confidential. Etc Etc

Confession exposes priest sex cover-up

Rory Callinan and Tanya Targett, Courier-Mail, Brisbane, 15 June 2002 A LONG-serving Catholic priest, who has confessed to sexually abusing young children, says the church is aware of his sins but has never alerted police or parishioners. A 66-year-old priest, named in the Courier Mail, has admitted to Courier Mail reporters that he masturbated altar boys saying his victims, some as young as 10, “wanted it”. Rockhampton Bishop Brian Heenan confirmed the abuse and said a public apology would be made.

etc etc

Pell’s man helped pedophile priests

By Fia Cumming, Political Correspondent, Sydney Sunday Sun Herald, June 2, 2002

A new row broke out yesterday over the way Catholic Archbishop George Pell handled child-sex abuse cases, with claims his appointment of a psychiatry professor to deal with victims was “insensitive”. Dr Pell, when he was archbishop of Melbourne in 1996, set up Carelink, a free counselling and support service for victims of clergy, in response to scandals plaguing the Catholic Church. The man he chose to chair Carelink was Richard Ball, the former chair of psychiatry at St Vincents Hospital, Melbourne. Professor Ball provided independent expert psychiatric reports which have been used in court for the defence of Catholic clergy. He had also helped treat priests accused of sexual abuse. Several of the pedophiles for whom Professor Ball provided expert defence were well known to the Archbishop.


The Age, Saturday 8 June 2002, had a significant article in its “Insight” section, by Ian Munro, about John Ruth — a Father Ridsdale victim who died recently, from a heart attack, after a very sad life as a result of Ridsdale’s abuse and the church’s callous indifference.