Catholic Church’s legal deluge compounded by damning Pell findings

The Age

May 8, 2020

By Chip Le Grand and Farrah Tomazin

The Catholic Church is facing hundreds of civil claims by victims of clerical sex abuse, bolstered by the royal commission’s findings about Cardinal George Pell’s role in the “catastrophic failure of leadership” in the Ballarat diocese.

The royal commission’s finding that Cardinal Pell knew nearly 40 years ago of the church’s practice of shifting notorious paedophile Gerald Ridsdale to different parishes to avoid scandal is likely to bolster the cases of abuse survivors who must demonstrate a breach of duty of care to successfully sue the church.

A separate finding that Cardinal Pell in 1974 dismissed a plea by a St Patrick’s College student to stop Christian Brother Edward Dowlan abusing other boys at the school will strengthen the compensation claims of people subsequently molested by the convicted child sex offender, their lawyers say.

One victim expressed his disappointment that Cardinal Pell and other church leaders were not going to take responsibility for the harm that “could [and] should have been stopped”.

A deluge of civil claims against the church and its entities has prompted the Supreme Court to establish a specialised Institutional Liability List to administer lawsuits relating to child sex abuse.

The new list includes claims for damages arising from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse as well as the Victorian Inquiry into the Handling of Child Abuse by Religious and Other Organisations. At the end of April, there were 347 cases on the list.

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