Bishop responds

THE Catholic Diocese of Sale has responded to publicity relating to a potential class action over historical child sexual and physical abuse allegations at St Patrick’s College in Sale.

Bishop of Sale, Bishop Pat O’Regan, said the diocese was aware that there had been an  assertion from one individual that he was a victim of abuse, and that a class action was currently being considered.

“We have no specific information about these matters, and have encouraged the main complainant to have his legal advisor make contact with us,” he said.

“Until that occurs, we cannot make further comment on this particular issue.”

Bishop O’Regan strongly rejected any suggestion that the Diocese of Sale was not taking action over abuse allegations, saying the diocese had in place a range of protocols to assist victims of abuse to make complaints.

He said this included going through the diocese’s Professional Standards Office, the Towards Healing process established by the Australian Bishops or through direct contact from complainants’ legal representatives.

“We are currently engaged in a number of cases through each of these processes,” he said.

“In keeping with respectful practice we maintain strict confidentiality of each victim.”

Bishop O’Regan said the diocese would continue to work “respectfully and pastorally” with all victims who came forward.

The proposed class action is significant, as it is expected to be the first class action lawsuit in Victoria against the Catholic Church under impending changes to state government legislation, which are anticipated to pass in the Legislative Council within weeks.

Under the new laws, both individuals and class action parties will be able to sue the church’s highly valuable property trusts, and other such structures, that were previously ‘untouchable’.