SNAP Applauds Australian Court Decision and Hopes that the World Is Paying Attention
Recently, an Australian Appellate Court dismissed a challenge by the Catholic Church to a lower court ruling overturning a settlement release signed by a survivor in the 1990s. The Church now faces the prospect of being sued for damages by the plaintiff, as well as by hundreds of other victims who received meager payments for serious injuries. We applaud this ruling and pray that countries around the world consider similar actions.
In upholding the lower court's decision, appellate judges David Beach, Stephen Kaye, and Robert Osborn found the 1996 payment of $32,500 was a “very modest one” and not commensurate “for the wrong done" to the altar boy who was victimized by a Catholic priest .
“In those circumstances, and notwithstanding the difficulties created by the elapse of time, it is, in our view, very plainly just and reasonable to set aside the deed,” the judges wrote. “Indeed, it would positively be unjust and unreasonable not to do so.”
We here at SNAP know of many survivors who accepted meager settlements from the Catholic Church before the truth about the "Bishops' Playbook" was widely known. In some cases, Church officials even lied to victims to force them to accept a pittance for their life-long damages and to sign iron-clad releases shielding the Church from further liability. But now that survivors' persistent witness has begun to turn the tables against the largest organized religion in the world, we hope that many of these victims will have a second chance at restitution which more adequately compensates them for the damages sustained.
Last year the Victorian government passed a law allowing courts to set aside a past deed of release or court judgment relating to child abuse. We hope that other legislatures and courts around the world will consider similar actions, to help even the David vs. Goliath fight between the survivors of clergy sexual abuse and the institutional Catholic Church.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)