Friday, November 12, 2010

Church sued
Abuse 'victim' sues Church for $1m
Gavin King

Friday, November 12, 2010

© The Cairns Post

A FORMER altar boy at the centre of a sex abuse claim is suing the Catholic Church for more than $1 million in new documents filed in the Supreme Court.

A statement of claim lodged by Cairns legal firm Dean and Bolton details the man's case for compensation after suffering years of alleged abuse by a Far Northern priest.

In the claim, a Cairns man, now 38, says the alleged acts of abuse by Father Joseph Sultana from February 1979 to November 1981 at Atherton’s St Joseph’s Church led to a life of sadness, a sense of loss and grief, social isolation and severe psychiatric symptoms.

The man is seeking $800,000 for future economic loss, $150,000 in general damages, plus interest on earnings, damages and superannuation, legal costs and an amount yet to be determined for past economic loss.

The Church is not yet required to lodge a defence until certain pre-court procedures have been completed, such as securing expert medical opinion.

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The man's statement of claim alleges the Roman Catholic Church and Sisters of Mercy in the Diocese of Cairns failed to prevent the alleged abuse by Father Sultana and did not act on his complaint about the abuse.

The claim says Father Pat McKenna was told of the abuse by the victim during a visit by Father McKenna to St Joseph's Church at Atherton in 1982.

In a letter to The Cairns Post last week, Father McKenna denied being told of the abuse, saying he only found out about the allegations two years ago.

"The plaintiff was subjected to numerous acts of sexual abuse by Father Sultana and these acts took place whilst the plaintiff was changing into and out of his altar boy garments in a room at St Joseph's Church, Atherton," the statement of claim reads.

"The Church respectively failed to prevent the predatory and sexually abusive conduct of Father Sultana when they were well aware of the complaint to Father McKenna and Sister Mary Stephen, and ought reasonably to have been aware of the unusual circumstances whereby the plaintiff was closeted in private in the presbytery of Father Sultana on a regular basis during school lunch breaks."

In a prepared statement, a spokesperson for Bishop James Foley - who was told of the abuse in a meeting with the victim in November last year - declined to comment on the case.

"Matters of a legal nature should be dealt with in a court of law and not through trial by media," the spokesperson said.

"He will not be drawn into discussion of specific cases and this is especially so where there has been disposition by the Court. To do otherwise, is an intrusion on the court's determination and in the case of a complainant outside the court process, an intrusion on the complainant's expectation of privacy and confidentiality."

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