The Catholic Church has been revealed as Victoria’s largest non-government property owner, casting doubt over claims it would be forced to cut social work if forced to compensate victims of clergy sexual abuse.
An investigation by Fairfax Media published on Monday reports that the church appears to own more than $30 billion in property and other assets across Australia.
Fairfax estimated the church’s Victorian portfolio to be about $9 billion, but in evidence to the royal commission in 2014 it valued its Melbourne properties at $109 million.
The apparent wealth of the church contrasts with findings by the royal commission, which found the average payout by the church’s compensation scheme established by former archbishop George Pell 20 years ago was $35,000 or less for those who had been abused by clergy.
“These figures confirm what we have known; there is huge inequity between the Catholic Church’s wealth and their responses to survivors,” Helen Last, chief executive of the In Good Faith Foundation, which supports abuse survivors told Fairfax.
“The 600 survivors registered for our foundation’s services continue to experience minimal compensation and lack of comprehensive care in relation to their church abuses. They say their needs are the lowest of church priorities.”
The government is rolling out a redress scheme for survivors from July 1, fulfilling a key recommendation of the child abuse royal commission.
The Catholic Church, which had already promised to join the national redress scheme, urged the states and territories to act.