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The Catholic Church is trying again to cover a sex abuse case and to prevent it from reaching the court. The Australian Catholic Church is attempting to stop one of its own priests from suing them for child abuse because he took too long to come forward. The priest wants to sue the church for abuse he suffered while he was a 12-year-old altar boy. The Church claims that too much time has passed for the lawsuit and that the case is out of date. It is probably the first case where a serving priest is suing another priest for sex assault, even though the alleged abuser is already dead.
As the Guardian reports, court documents allege the altar boy was abused in the 1960s by Clarence “David” Anderson, a now-dead priest. The abuse is said to have occurred at a church on the north coast of New South Wales, which sat on the grounds of a boarding school.
Anderson was a priest and religious teacher and the boy was a boarder. On one occasion, the accuser alleges he was abused in the sacristy of the church, where he was the altar boy, following morning mass.
The Diocese of Lismore is defending the claim and wrote to the plaintiff’s lawyer last week. Mark Barrow of Ken Cush and Associates demanded the priest drop the case by February 6th, warning that they will pursue him for legal costs if he doesn’t. They argued that the time between the alleged offences and the court case denied the church any chance of a fair trial.
“The delay in plaintiff [sic] bringing his claim (especially as he is a Priest in the Diocese) has permanently prejudiced our client’s (and arguably all defendants) capacity to investigate, respond to and defend the allegations contained in the statement of claim,” the church said in a letter.
There are already many cases where priests or churches have not been prosecuted at court for sexual abuse because their victims were unable to disclose their abuse during childhood because of the shame and secrecy surrounding sexual matters. As the Redress and Civil Litigation Report found, on average, it takes more than three decades for an abuse victim to be able to seek redress in court.
Barrow said the church’s approach to the case showed the royal commission had meant little to the diocese. “After the royal commission and what has been said and done, even with reforms we are back to square one, because after the abuse was covered up for so long the Bishop of Lismore is using that delay to avoid justice and pay fair compensation,” he said in a statement.