Saturday, July 19, 2008

Church Abuse - Call For Compensation

Yesterday, during a World Youth Day ceremony to consecrate the altar at St Mary's Cathedral in Sydney, Pope Benedict XVI apologised to victims of sexual assault.
"Indeed I am deeply sorry for the pain and suffering the
victims have endured and I assure them that, as their pastor, I too share in
their suffering "
Following the apology,Hetty Johnston, Executive Director of Bravehearts (a child sexual assault advocacy group) , called for compensation for the victims. That would be fair and just. However, the issue is more complex than just making the Catholic Church pay. Or any other church. Most victims of child sexual assault or abuse know the perpetrator. They either have some connection to the family, or are family members. They, too, ought to have rights to compensation.

Nor is the issue that Catholic priests, or members of other religious orders, are unmarried, and take vows of celebacy. Rod O’Conner, Senior Research Fellow, Centre for Health Program Evaluation, in 1991 wrote that

"Child sexual abusers are predominantly male. Other than that they are unlikely to be readily identifiable. Abel et al (1987), on the basis of ... subjects studied over a nine years period, concluded that they came from a broad spectrum of socio-economic backgrounds, and were unremarkable in terms of age, education, or marital status."
Compensation to victims ought to be independent of organisations and people. Having said that, it might well be appropriate for courts to order compensation for victims from a central (State) source, and impose fines on perpetrators and organisations that breach their duty of care. At least, then, all victims can be compensated, irrespective of the perpetrator. Further the Catholic Church, and other churches, ought to establish proper protocols to facilitate police investigation of all allegations of sexual abuse, and to resolve outstanding matters. This would fit with Christ's edict to "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are Caesar's; and unto God the things that are God's" (Matthew, 22: 19-21 )