|Anthony and Chrissie Foster, daughters were abused and their lives destroyed|
An investigation by Tara Brown on 60 Minutes on Nine (Australia) has exposed the secrets of George Pell’s Melbourne Response and its potential to gag victims and fail them.
The Melbourne Response was a program set up by Cardinal Pell in late 1996 when he was Archbishop of Melbourne.
It investigates allegations of child sexual abuse inflicted by people within the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.
Complaints are assessed by an independent commissioner and referred on to a compensation panel. Victims can receive compensation up to $50,000.
But Brown has discovered documents that reveal the Melbourne Response didn’t deserve the praise it has been given by Cardinal Pell.
She has been following the ongoing hearings at the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse, which addresses allegations of paedophilia within the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.
“The main point of the investigation is to look at some of the documents uncovered through the royal commission,” Brown said.
“It shows the cynical approach and the contrast to how it’s been applauded by Cardinal Pell.
“What the documents show is the Melbourne Response’s disregard for the families.”
A report released in September by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, identified the role of the Catholic Church in determining its own compensation scheme.
|Damning new evidence against Cardinal |
George Pell will be revealed on
Picture: AFP/Andreas Solaro
The commission was concerned certain relationships within the Melbourne Response could potentially cause conflicts of interest or breaches in confidentiality.
The report also touched on concerns that the Melbourne Response independent commissioner, who was investigating allegations, was giving victims advice on whether they should tell police about the abuse.
Brown’s investigation is centred on Christine and Anthony Foster, who have been fighting for justice for victims of child sexual abuse within the church.
Their daughters Emma and Katie were victims of abuse from Father Kevin O’Donnell and the family has suffered severe heartache and anguish as a result.
Emma struggled with the abuse and eventually took her own life while Katie went down a path of binge drinking in an attempt to take away the pain.
She walked in front of a car and was badly injured and will need care the rest of her life.
Brown said the Foster family had showed Cardinal Pell a photo of Emma with bloody wrists after she once attempted to take her life, next to a photo of her at her confirmation, and he said “she’s changed hasn’t she?”
“In 2002, Richard Carleton on 60 Minutes asked George Pell about that and he denied it,” Brown said.
“But 10 years later he admitted it to the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry into Child Sexual Abuse and said he reacted that way because he didn’t expect to see the photo — but all those years before he was denying it.”
Christine and Anthony Foster want justice for all people abused by the Catholic Church. Picture: News Limited
Brown said when the Fosters dealt with Cardinal Pell and the church through the Melbourne Response, they felt they were not believed.
But Brown said the documents proved what they were feeling was justified.
“It’s in black and white what the Melbourne Response was trying to do,” she said.
Cardinal Pell went from a parish priest in Ballarat to third in charge at the Vatican and Brown’s investigation will look at the lengths he went to in order to protect his reputation.
His intervention program on behalf of the child abuse victims has been described as a “cynical smokescreen designed to protect the Catholic Church at all costs”.
Brown said the Fosters came to the conclusion that the Melbourne Response was trying to limit the compensation given to families.
“Compensation clearly is incredibly important,” Brown said.
“It depends on the individual and their needs but it’s more about acceptance of what they’ve been through and making sure the person who has done this to them is not protected in any way.
“They want to be believed and supported.
“From people we’ve spoken to, it’s opposite to the treatment they’ve received.”
Brown said speaking to the Fosters was confronting and it stirred up sadness and anger within her.
“They feel very vindicated and in their case the royal commission found the Melbourne Response was not independent, despite Pell saying it proudly,” she said.
“They’ve always know what they were saying was true but seeing it in black and white gives them a sense of satisfaction and a real focus on making sure people won’t be put through the loopholes
they’ve had to go through.”
While Brown does look at the heartbreak suffered by the Fosters, she said the focus of the story was what the Melbourne Response represented and how its setup could potentially fail other families.
The story will air ahead of Cardinal Pell’s reappearance at the royal commission.
“He will be asked questions I’m sure about abuse in Ballarat and Melbourne and we will gain a better understanding of how the Melbourne Response was set up,” she said.
“All eyes will be on him in terms of what he has to say and the way he addresses complaints and concerns.
“It will be interesting to see what comes next.”