"The protracted negotiations ''had the effect of re-abusing Mrs Isaacs and it was certainly not a compassionate response"". Photo: James Alcock
Catholic Church officials have admitted their treatment of a woman who was sexually abused at 14 by the chaplain of her Brisbane convent school lacked justice and compassion, the Royal Commission on Institutional Responses to Child Sex Abuse has heard.
The church's Towards Healing process for responding to victims' complaints amounted to ''re-abuse'' of Joan Isaacs, admitted Mary Rogers, who facilitated Mrs Isaacs' case for the Catholic archdiocese of Brisbane.
Mrs Isaacs, 60, turned to the church for an apology, counselling and compensation after her abuser, Frank Derriman, was convicted and jailed for eight months. Her Towards Healing meeting with church representatives took place in April 1999. After two years of fraught negotiations she was paid $30,000, most of it wiped out by costs. She had 10 sessions with a psychologist but had to repeatedly chase up the Brisbane archdiocese to pay her psychologist's invoice.
The protracted negotiations ''had the effect of re-abusing Mrs Isaacs and it was certainly not a compassionate response'', admitted Ms Rogers, now director of the Catholic Church's Queensland professional standards office. Mrs Isaacs wept quietly in the hearing room at these words, comforted by her husband, Ian. Ms Rogers agreed there was no ''justice'' in Towards Healing in any legal sense. ''The word justice is difficult to fit into this protocol,'' she said.
The church's insurer Catholic Church Insurances and its lawyers dictated Mrs Isaac's treatment with a view to minimising liability, according to the evidence of Dr James Spence, whose job as chancellor of the archdiocese was to liaise between them. He said the ''lawyers and insurers told us not to involve ourselves'' in an apology.
He agreed with Gail Furness, SC, counsel assisting the commission, this stance was lacking in the justice and compassion the Towards Healing protocol, on paper, required.
''Did you ever say to the archbishop, 'This isn't right'?'' asked commission chairman Justice Peter McClellan.
Dr Spence replied: ''One doesn't generally speak so directly with the archbishop.''
Dr Spence said the $30,000 payout to Mrs Isaacs, about a tenth of what she had sought, was ''mean''. He said the archdiocese had a $150 million development fund that could be used to go ''outside the figures, where justified, offered by insurers''. He said it was ''quite inappropriate'' that Mrs Isaacs was required to sign a deed preventing her from speaking ''disparagingly'' of Towards Healing as a condition of her payment. At the time he ''didn't see'' that the deed went against the Towards Healing protocol.
The hearing continues.