At a meeting of the Catholic Church’s discredited “Towards Healing” protocol for dealing with clerical sexual abuses, a member proudly announced he had personally destroyed over 40 boxes of evidence that morning, according to a church consultant.
Dr. Robert Grant, a U.S. psychologist who has previously advised the Catholic Church in several countries, said that he was “shocked, I was dumbfounded, not only the timing – I realized it was a statement to me how things were going to be run.”
Dr. Grant also revealed that meetings were attended by officials of the Catholic Church Insurance (CCI) company, and its lawyers. CCI officials would object to language used in the Towards Healing document “that would put the church at risk in terms of admitting culpability.” He said that “At first I thought maybe they were there to advise the church about the risk of taking certain pastoral stances, but I began to realize quite quickly that they were dictating policy.”
Clearly, the church was more interested in costs incurred by its insurance arm, which enjoys tax-free status in Australia, than in the welfare of victims. As Dr. Grant noted, “Quite to my amazement, I never heard victims talked about. I never heard victims being – people being concerned about the well-being of victims or how the document would affect victims. I heard more about Church liability and also I heard about priests that were victims. There was talk about priests that were being unjustly accused. I’d hear this every so often, but I hardly ever heard – and I even brought up a couple of times, aren’t we missing sorta the whole population that this document is designed for, which is the victims? But that again was not picked up or developed.”
As Jason Parkinson, of Porters Lawyers, has noted, there was a clear case of conflict of interest. “They are profiting from the money that they’ve saved by not paying proper damages to victims of child sexual abuse,” he said on the Australian Broadcasting Corporation’s “Lateline” TV program.
There is also a great overlap of members of the committee and members of the CCI board of directors. Both CCI’s CEO, Peter Rush (see previous posting), and one of its directors, Sister Clare Condon, are on the committee. Sister Angela Ryan was a committee member while also a director of CCI. Laurie Rolls, a long-term committee member, is the special projects manager at CCI.
Back in the 1990s when he was dealing with paedophile priests like Denis McAlinden, Father Brian Lucas (see previous postings) was also a member of the committee that oversaw Towards Healing. In 2002 he became general secretary of the Bishops Conference, and a year later, a director of Catholic Church Insurance.
The Bishops Conference receives dividends from Catholic Church Insurance and oversees the committee. The committee itself is part-funded by CCI. Lucas gave evidence at the NSW enquiry recently, while CEO of CCI, Peter Rush, gave evidence at the Victorian enquiry. Rush claimed, at that time, there was no influence o the “Towards Healing” process by his organisation. Was this perjury?
Catholic Church Insurance and the Australian Bishops Conference declined requests for interviews by “Lateline”. When approached, 12 past and present members of the National Committee for Professional Standards (which oversees “Towards Healing”) including Father Brian Lucas, Bishop Geoffrey Robinson and CCI’s CEO Peter Rush, all declined to be interviewed.
However, the head of the Catholic Church’s PR Unit formed to deal with the fall-out from the Royal Commission, Francis Sullivan (see previous postings), did respond. Mr. Sullivan has not been meeting with victims, but has been touring the country advising church personnel. His latest gig was talking to 250 members of the local Perth clergy, bothers, nuns and other religious in the state of Western Australia.
Mr. Sullivan, as one would expect, was very smooth in his “Lateline” appearance, and vigorously kept up the line that his bosses were only interested in the victims, and not the money. Of course, he could not answer for the other non-show officials, so he didn’t. Well done, Mr. S. Keep up the good work!
[Postscript: “Lateline” reports that it understands that Dr. Grant knows the name of the official who boasted of destroying the 40 boxes of evidence. Presumably, the Royal Commissioners will want to hear from him in due course.]