THE Catholic Church has paid more than $25 million to Hunter region child sexual abuse survivors, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has been told on the first day of a public hearing into Maitland-Newcastle diocese.
The diocese has substantiated claims or complaints from 158 people relating to 31 different perpetrators, counsel assisting the royal commission, Mr Stephen Free, said in an opening address highlighting decades of abuse in the region.
Nearly two-thirds of offenders were priests, and six per cent were members of a religious order.
The diocese has paid out claims to 46 victims of abuse from just one school – St Pius X, Adamstown, the royal commission was told.
The public hearing, which is expected to hear evidence until September 9, will consider the diocese’s handling of allegations against paedophile priest Vince Ryan, and the Marist Brothers’ response to allegations involving three Brothers – Romuald (Francis Cable), Patrick (Thomas Butler) and Dominic (Darcy O’Sullivan).
The royal commission was told it will hear evidence about the response of the late Monsignor Patrick Cotter to allegations of abuse against Vince Ryan in the 1970s.
“The royal commission will need to consider from the evidence whether Monsignor Cotter lied in some of his later statements regarding what he knew in 1975, or otherwise sought to understate his knowledge,” Mr Free told the hearing.
Cotter was interviewed by police, including the now NSW Deputy Premier and Minister for Justice and Police Troy Grant, in 1995 after Ryan was charged with child sex offences.
Cotter denied knowledge of Ryan’s offending, despite a letter from the 1970s in which he said he “decided to say nothing” to Ryan about child sex allegations.
Police wanted to charge Cotter in 1995 with concealing Ryan’s crimes but the Director of Public Prosecutions declined, in part because of Cotter’s age, 82. Mr Grant in 2012 expressed regret that Cotter was not charged.
The royal commission will also hear evidence about Marist Brother Dominic Sullivan who was allowed to continue teaching boys after abuse allegations, based on the Brother’s promise to maintain a “hands off” policy towards boys.
Dominic in March 2016 entered guilty pleas to offences against 12 boys.
The hearing continues.