12:42 GMT +326 April 2017
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    Catholic Church Relies on 'Secrecy and Resistance' to Scare Sex Abuse Victims

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    Australia's Catholic Church paid out $213 million to victims of sexual abuse by priests between 1980 and 2015, it has been revealed - although a lawyer investigating Catholic sexual abuse has told Sputnik the true compensation bill will be considerably higher, given the number of victims who have failed to come forward.

    On average, victims who came forward with claims received US$70,000 (91,000 Australian dollars) each. Prosecuting barrister Gail Furness said the extent of the abuse was likely to be "much greater" than the claims made. Campaigners believe the true figure could be as high as 10,000.

    "Many survivors face barriers which deter them from reporting abuse to authorities and the institution in which the abuse occurred," Furness said.

    His sentiments are echoed by David Greenwood, a lawyer who leads Switalkis Solicitors' child abuse compensation team, who says the figures likely won't include compensation paid by many missionary orders operating in Australia.

    "In the UK we see a policy of very hard resistance which is calculated to scare potential claimants off coming forward. Secrecy and resistance are central features of Catholic responses so these figures represent a small fraction of what should have been paid in compensation," Mr. Greenwood told Sputnik.

    On February 7, Australia's Royal Commission, set up to investigate claims of child sex abuse in the country's Catholic institutions between 1980 and 2015, revealed over 4,000 people had come forward. Of those 3,066 had received payments for redress, and hundreds of claims remained ongoing. Almost 50 percent of the complaints related to abuse within schools, with roughly a third related to children's homes. The Christian Brothers, which operated residential facilities, paid out to the most victims, with 40 percent of its members having faced allegations of child sexual abuse.

    Commission statistics indicate seven percent of Catholic priests who worked in the country between 1950-1975 were accused of sexually abusing children, with 78 percent of the victims being male. Average ages at the time of abuse 10.5 for girls and 11.5 for boys.

    In a statement, the Commission said reports of abuse received by the Church hierarchy at the time were not properly addressed, with accusers either ignored or even punished, and leaders doing much to cover up the crimes.

    "Allegations were not investigated. Priests and religious [figures] were moved. The parishes or communities to which they were moved knew nothing of their past. Documents were not kept or were destroyed. Secrecy prevailed as did cover-ups," the statement said.

    The inquiry began in 2013, following public confirmation by the country's Roman Catholic Church confirmed that at least 620 children had been sexually abused by its priests in the state of Victoria between 1960 and 1990. In a statement, the Church admitted it had historically hidden its "head in the sand" on the issue, long being resistant to the truth about "shocking abuse" that took place.

    Related:

    Pope Francis Admits Existence of Corruption in Vatican, Condemns Sexual Abuses
    Australia Shocked After Inquiry Reveals Scale of Child Abuse by Catholic Priests
    'Absolution Prayers': Victims of Vatican Priests' Sexual Violence Demand Justice
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    church abuse, priests, child sexual abuse, sexual abuse, investigation, religion, compensation, victims, Catholic Church, Australia
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