Praise for Church Abuse Payment

By Ellen Whinnett
Chief Reporter, carried in The Mercury [Australia]
June 2, 2003

ANGLICAN Bishop John Harrower's controversial decision to offer financial assistance to victims of sex abuse by the clergy has won high praise from previous critics.

The victims lobby group Survivors Confronting Child Abuse and Rape released its full response to the Anglican Bishop of Tasmania, the Right Rev John Harrower's victims assistance package.

The group's acting president Steve Fisher said Bishop Harrower had acted courageously and deserved recognition for his actions.

"He should be applauded for this," Mr Fisher said, and called on other bishops in Australia to follow his lead.

Bishop Harrower last week announced the Anglican Church Diocese of Tasmania would offer financial packages to victims who had been sexually abused by clergy and church officials.

The packages will be for a maximum of $60,000 and will not contain clauses preventing victims from publicly discussing their payments.

The church has appointed retired Supreme Court judge Christopher Wright to assess the claims.

The ground-breaking decision sets the Anglican Church in Tasmania ahead of other dioceses in Australia, which are still resisting calls for financial payouts.

The move was considered a major leap of faith, as the church has no idea how many victims may come forward to claim a financial assistance package.

The move has the potential to send the church bankrupt, as happened in Canada.

"This was a very courageous decision and we hope it will be the beginning of reconciliation between the abuse victims and the church," Mr Fisher, who was abused by a former Anglican priest in the 1980s, said yesterday.

"The fact Bishop Harrower has offered this, given the risks that are involved to the church, shows how seriously he has taken this.

"His decision shows this issue is foremost in his mind. It's a precedent nationwide."

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