Redress scheme could have been handled better

Young girl punished

The director of a pastoral and redress scheme for victims of child sexual abuse within the Catholic Church has conceded she lacked influence when dealing with the case of a woman who was abused by a priest for four years, reports the ABC on Yahoo7.

When she was 17 and in her final year of school, Jennifer Ingham was suffering from bulimia. It was 1978. She was admitted to hospital, underwent psychological treatment and missed her exams. Mrs Ingham also required surgery to her face for the condition, and asked to pause in her testimony at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse because she was in severe pain.

At the time, Father Paul Rex Brown from the Diocese of Lismore in northern NSW invited her to a motel where she was sexually abused for the first time. The abuse continued until 1982. Jennifer Ingham says she told her story to Father Francis Mulcahy in 1990.

Mrs Ingham wanted to meet with Father Mulcahy in her Towards Healing session to ask him why he had not not acted, but he was never required.

As Director of the Professional Standards Office in Queensland, Mary Bernadette Rogers was responsible for organising the session. She says it could have been handled better: 'At that early stage in my role, I think I lacked the influence.'

The hearing was told it was Mrs Rogers' role to prepare the victim, so they knew who the people would be in the room and what their roles were.

She was asked if she performed the role effectively. 'With hindsight, and with the benefit of Mrs Ingham's statement, no, I did not do that well', Ms Rogers said.

TRUTH JUSTICE AND HEALING COUNCIL

The first week of the Royal Commission’s hearings into Towards Healing finished on Friday 13 December.

It has been gruelling for the victims and confronting for the Church and the witnesses from the Church who have been involved in the two case studies that have been looked at so far.

Summaries of the past four days of hearings can be found here.

The questioning of witnesses has ranged across issues such as financial payments, pastoral care, and Towards Healing processes.

One of the key themes has been in relation to a particular part of the Towards Healing document which requires victims be treated with justice and compassion.

On many occasions Justice McClellan has asked witnesses if the treatment of either Mrs Isaacs or Mrs Ingham, in their view, met these requirements. On most occasions the witnesses agreed it had not.

The Chief Commissioner has also often returned to a line of questioning which goes to the responsibility of the Church as a whole for the crimes of offending priests.

Another key area of interest has been the inconsistency of the application of Towards Healing within and between different dioceses and religious orders. A number of witnesses agreed the lack of coordination meant victims in different places often received different payments and levels of pastoral care.

Most witnesses have been asked their thoughts on the failings of Towards Healing with general agreement that the role of lawyers and insurers in the process had hindered the pastoral aspects.

The Church has committed itself to repairing the wrongs of the past, and will listen to and hear victims and ensure the future is safer for children.

This week is a significant moment for victims of abuse within the Catholic Church, for the Church leadership, for Catholics around Australia and for the community more broadly.

Today’s hearing heard candid insights from Bernadette Rogers, Director of Professional Standards in Queensland and Emma Fenby, former case manager from Catholic Church Insurance.

Both acknowledged the benefits and failings of Towards Healing.

Ms Rogers detailed the importance of the physical environment in which victims meet with Church representatives so victims feel relaxed and valued and their privacy is respected.

Ms Rogers said in the less than 12 months she had been director in Queensland she had taken the director role from a part-time to full-time position, overhauled the office space and recruited additional staff to ensure the office ran smoothly and helped meet the needs of victims.

Emma Fenby from CCI acknowledged the importance of victims being able to tell their stories.

She said the cases she dealt with all had a strong pastoral element which offered a real benefit to victims when done properly.

“It is the best forum for victims to deal with the long-lasting impact of sexual abuse on them, their family, their career, their life.”

Day five concluded with evidence from Deacon Chris Wallace, Chancellor Diocese of Lismore.  

The hearing continues.

FULL COVERAGE

Redress scheme could have been handled better (Yahoo7)

Abuse victim ‘got a belting’ for reporting priest (The Guardian)

Lawyers 'horse-traded' on church abuse (SMH)

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