Monday 11th August, 8.30pm ABC
They were sexually abused by the clergy and then found themselves targeted by the Church’s lawyers. Why did it happen and who was responsible for the strategy?
This week on Four Corners, reporter Quentin McDermott reveals the systematic way the Catholic Church sought to conceal the sexual abuse of children, using lawyers to minimise the potential financial impact to the organisation.
Talking to the abused, their families and employees of the Church, and by examining the detail of Royal Commission testimony, McDermott pieces together a strategy that even those inside the Church now concede was misplaced and utterly unethical.
“It’s a major, major crisis. It’s not only a crisis of scandal and crime; it’s also a crisis of faith and credibility.”
The program begins by looking at two cases where the Church clearly accepted that all the available evidence suggested abuse had happened, even offering a small settlement. When this was rejected, the lawyers acting on behalf of the Church argued the abuse had never happened.
“Firstly they disputed that the abuse had occurred and then they denied that our daughters had suffered from that abuse.”
The investigation examines the tactics employed by the Church in negotiating with victims in private, often with no legal representation, during compensation negotiations.
In case after case it becomes clear that the key objective has been to minimise financial costs. In each of the cases examined, the victims firmly believe the legal strategies employed constituted a second round of abuse. As one Catholic priest told Four Corners, it’s an approach that could not be justified in any way:
“It’s been a misguided attempt to preserve the Church’s assets... the real assets of the Church are its people.”
‘IN THE NAME OF THE LAW’, reported by Quentin McDermott and presented by Kerry O’Brien, goes to air on Monday 11th August at 8.30pm on ABC. It is replayed on Tuesday 12th August at 11.00am and 11.35pm. It can also be seen on ABC News 24 on Saturday at 8.00pm, ABC iview orabc.net.au/4corners.