Last Night’s ‘Q&A’ Got Heated Over The Pell Verdict And Faith In Australia

The head of the Australian Catholic Church‘s response to the royal commission into child sexual abuse says the victim compensation scheme formulated by convicted paedophile Cardinal George Pell should be dismantled.

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On an emotionally charged Q&A, Francis Sullivan, who lead the church’s Truth, Justice and Healing Council, said the so-called Melbourne Response ought to be wound up in favour of the National Redress Scheme, a government-led initiative formed after the royal commission.

“The days of the church investigating itself are meant to be over,” Sullivan said of Pell’s controversial 1996 in-house victim compensation scheme, which asks applicants to waive their rights to sue the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne.

The Melbourne Response has also been criticised for compensating victims far less than they would have reasonably expected to receive after proving their case in courts of law. There is currently pressure on the Victorian State Government to alter laws to permit survivors who’ve received compensation via the Melbourne Response to sue the Church.

The Church “should provide an entity that can be sued, they should act like a model litigant, not play tricky games,” Sullivan said.

Going further, Sullivan said “the Church needs an ombudsman-type role where it brings bishops into account, because they’re accountable only to the Pope.” 

Sullivan’s statement came amid broader questions on how Australian Catholics can maintain their faith, given December’s conviction of Pell on five counts of child sex abuse and the shocking findings of the royal commission.

Some panellists simply didn’t have an answer. NSW Labor senator Kristina Keneally told the panel the Church’s inability to address its fundamental crises pushed her away from the institution.

“I could not, as a lay person, continue to prop up a failing and decaying institution with my voluntary labour and my money,” Keneally said.

You can watch the full discussion HERE.