Church in bid to stop pedo priest's payout
The Catholic Church's attempt to block a paedophile priest's victim from accessing a payout has failed.
The Victorian Court of Appeal on Friday rejected an application from the church that would have prevented the victim, known by the pseudonym WCB in court to protect his identity, from seeking compensation.
In their written reasons, judges David Beach, Stephen Kaye and Robert Osborn said WCB had been subjected to abuse "of the most horrific kind".
He was tormented from the age of 11 while he was an altar boy at Warragul, in the Diocese of Sale, from 1977-1980.
The abuse was also inflicted on his brother, the justices said.
The paedophile priest, Daniel Hourigan, admitted the repeated sexual abuse before his death in 1995, the justices said.
But the Diocese of Sale tried to stop WCB, who is now in his 50s, from seeking a payout in the wake of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.
It had already given the victim $32,500 in 1996 in a settlement that included a clause preventing him from seeking more money in future.
But the Court of Appeal on Friday said WCB could still seek further compensation.
The justices said the abuser, Hourigan, was accepted to study as a priest in Sale despite allegations of "harsh" treatment of a homosexual nature from young boys in Papua New Guinea, where he was previously appointed.
They said the abuse was reported by the victim's family to the Bishop of Sale in 1986, leading the church to appoint another priest to investigate.
The bishop told the investigating priest to "not inform anyone else of the matter".
Hourigan told the investigating priest the abuse "could be viewed from different points of view" before "calmly and humbly admitted he was guilty and needed help".
In response, the church organised a psychiatrist and psychologist for Hourigan.
"He seems a very good and worthy priest apart from this unfortunate lapse," psychologist Ronald Conway reported, in an excerpt printed in court documents.
"I note that he comes from a relatively solid Catholic family of the old school."
No other action appears to have been taken besides organising the psychiatrist and psychologist, the justice's reasons reveal.
In 1996, the victim took the Bishop of the Archdiocese of Sale to court, claiming "injury, severe post-traumatic stress disorder and severe shock".
The church settled out of court for $32,500.
In December 2018 the victim again sued the church - and it has been fighting in court through a series of legal battles for two years.
The judges said the church denied: the abuse; that the church was liable for the abuse; that the victim suffered injury, loss or damages as a result of its breach of duty of care; and that the church had a requirement to prevent crimes including priests sexually abusing children.
The church argued it shouldn't have to pay the victim more money because of "matters of prejudice and unfairness" in that the abuse occurred more than 40 years ago and key players had died.
But the judges said there was "a significant amount of evidence" to corroborate the victim's claim of "incredibly traumatic" child sexual abuse.
They agreed it was "just and reasonable" that the victim be able to apply for more compensation.
The victim argued laws and community attitudes had changed significantly since 1996 when he was awarded the first payout.
He quoted former child protection minister Luke Donnellan in saying, "Many survivors of child abuse were not able to obtain justice even with independent legal representation because of the barriers to civil litigation.
"As a result, many survivors accepted inadequate compensation and entered into deeds of release."
Friday's Court of Appeal decision was the result of the church attempting to appeal a previous judge's decision, which was also in the victim's favour.
Originally published as Church bid to stop pedo priest payout