The payment of JobKeeper moneys to the Catholic Church and priests is an example of hypocrisy by the Church, the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said today.
The payments were disclosed when the ABC reported that the Catholic Church’s Parramatta diocese was asking priests to donate nearly half of their payments back to the Church to improve its financial position.
“The Catholic Church has long argued that priests are not employees which has allowed the Church to escape liability for child sexual abuse claims,” said Dr Andrew Morrison RFD SC, spokesperson for the ALA.
In 2007 Cardinal Pell and the Archdiocese of Sydney successfully argued in the NSW Court of Appeal that they were not liable for the sexual abuse of a child by a priest in the diocese because they did not employ the priest. They also successfully argued in the Ellis case that the Catholic Church was not a legal entity capable of being sued. The High Court refused special leave to appeal.
The Bishop of Ballarat has pleaded he is not liable in more than 30 cases of child abuse by priests, using the Ellis defence.
“By calling on Government to amend the JobKeeper scheme to allow priests to receive this government support they are claiming a defacto employee relationship,” said Dr Morrison RFD SC.
“The JobKeeper scheme is designed to maintain the employee and employer relationship during the COVID-19 health crisis. It is completely hypocritical of the Church to claim JobKeeper payments for priests while, on the other hand, avoiding liability for serious and terrible crimes against children because priests are not technically employees.
“It is improper and inappropriate for the Catholic Church to receive these payments from the Commonwealth.”