Recent reports about accusations being against Archbishop Pell in promoting tonight's 60 Minutes story.
 

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Priest's Rights, December 2001

Church Payments to Victims, 15 May 2002

   

1643 K Sun 2 Jun 2002

Channel 9 has been advertising for in the past few days about tonight's Sixty Minutes program. Accusations are being made about Archbishop Pell, the Archbishop of Sydney. From what he has said the accusations relate to the payment of money to victims of sexual abuse as bribery for silence.

The advertisements did not make the accusations explicit, and Archbishop Pell in his statement to the media (on Thursday) addressed this:

... I accept the media's role in our society of agenda setting and pursuing stories of public interest. What I find unacceptable is Sixty Minute's blatant misrepresentation of their real intentions and the harmful and misleading way in which this story is being promoted. ...

Yesterday his photo was on the front page of the Herald Sun newspaper with the headline "$50,000 HUSH MONEY". I notice the internet headline is different, "Pell in hush money claim". I do not think it is reasonable to call these payments "hush money".

According to the Herald-Sun report yesterday, regarding the $50,000 payment:

... Dr Pell said had the parents accepted the offer, "there is a requirement that they don't talk about it." ...

According to the 1996 Media Release:

... Compensation payments, up to a maximum of $50,000 per person, will be recommended at the discretion of the Panel. Such payments will be made in full settlement of all legal claims against the Archbishop and the Archdiocese. ...

If the recommended payment is not accepted, any person making a complaint will remain free to pursue the matter through the courts. ...

And according to the ABC report of 2 June:

... "You're told that you sign this document not to disclose the information so that's basically it, the end of the subject.

"I could still talk about what happened to me but they said you don't disclose the amount you received and that you received compensation," Margaret said.

But the church maintains money paid to individuals was not to keep them silent.

It says the forms signed at the start of a compensation claim stipulate the claim should not discussed, but once the claim is settled there is no confidentiality clause. ...

So the publicity of this case highlights that great care needs to be made in making payments to victims of sexual abuse. I have not seen tonight's story, but I think Archbishop Pell has handled the public relations aspect of this well, as both the Australian Prime Minister and Leader of the Opposition seem to have said in the two stories of 2 June.

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 2 June 2002.

Other sites:

Sixty Minutes "Loss of Faith"

Archbishop Pell's Media Statement, 30 May

Archbishop Pell's Statutory Declaration

ABC, 31 May "Sixty Minutes defends clergy sex abuse story"

The Australian,1 June "Pell lawyers offer to abuse family"

Herald Sun, 1 June "Pell in hush money claim"

The Age, 2 June, "Inquiry call on sex claims"

ABC, 2 June "PM backs Archbishop accused of silencing Church victims"

1996 Media Release about new Independent Commissioner