Discussing newspaper reports of 11 June 2002 about recent confidentiality agreements being required in settlements with victims of sexual abuse. It discusses the Catholic bishops in Australia, who are named, and what they should do.
 

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10 June 2002 - Policy vs Practice

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1001 K Tue 11 Jun 2002

The Ballarat diocese made a compensation payout of conditional on the victim's silence in September 2001. This is according to an article on page 6 of The Australian newspaper by Nicole Strahan. The bishop of the Ballarat diocese is the Most Reverend Peter Connors.

Kelly Burke, in the Sydney Morning Herald, wrote:

... On Sunday, Mr McCarthy tried to deflect criticism away from individual diocesan bishops, such as retired Bishop of Lismore, the Most Rev John Satterthwaite, and his successor, Most Rev Geoffrey Jarrett, who signed off on a confidentiality agreement last month. It prevented a physically disabled woman who had been paid $15,000 compensation from going public with her story over how she became pregnant to a priest in the Lismore diocese. ...

If it was signed last month then it would have been signed by Bishop Jarrett, who became the bishop there in December 2001. So it seems to me that both Bishop Connors and Bishop Jarrett have failed to follow the policy of the December 2000 Towards Healing document:

41.4 No complainant shall be required to give an undertaking which imposes upon them an obligation of silence concerning the circumstances which led them to make a complaint, as a condition of an agreement with the Church authority.

They have made mistakes that have seriously and publicly damaged the credibility of the Catholic Church in Australia.

Now they have a choice: to say nothing or publicly admit their part of the error. If they say nothing the Church's credibility will continue to be damaged. Their ability to use the media in the future will be severely restricted. It will also limit the ability of other Australian bishops to talk to the media.

Often people make mistakes and do not publicly admit them. Often there is no need to. But this is a matter considerable public interest.

1015 K Wed 12 Jun 2002

According to Kelly Burke in today's Sydney Morning Herald:

... In a written statement issued to the Northern Star, the Bishop of Lismore, the Most Rev Geoffrey Jarrett, said the non-disclosure clause in this case had been "inadvertently" retained and would not be enforced. "There was never any intention to silence the person," he said. ...

Copyright J.R. Lilburne, 11 June 2002. Last updated 12 June 2002.

Other sites:

Sydney Morning Herald, "Church fails its own sex abuse rules" by Kelly Burke

Ballarat Diocese

Lismore Diocese

Cathtelecom.com