Catholic Church ‘hypocritical’ for accepting JobKeeper
It is hypocritical of the Catholic Church, which thus far avoided liability for child sexual abuse crimes, to accept JobKeeper payments, one barrister argued.
A barrister speaking on behalf of the Australian Lawyers Alliance (ALA) said that while for many years the Catholic Church has avoided liability for child sexual abuse crimes because priests are not technically employees, it is hypocritical of the Church to accept JobKeeper payments as a way of preserving an “employer/employee” relationship.
Dr Andrew Morrison RFD SC, spokesperson for ALA, said: “The Catholic Church long argued that priests are not employees which has allowed the Church to escape liability for child sexual abuse crimes. It is improper and inappropriate for the Catholic Church to receive these payments from the Commonwealth.”
In 2007 Cardinal George Pell and the archdiocese of Sydney successfully argued 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.
Using the Elis defence, the Bishop of Ballarat has pleaded that he is not liable in more than 30 cases of child abuse by Catholic Church priests.
According to an ABC investigation, that first disclosed the Catholic Church’s diocese in Parramatta were receiving JobKeeper payments, the church had asked that priests donate almost half of the payment back to the organisation to “help make up for plunge in donations from parishioners” due to the restrictions imposed by COVID-19.
“By calling on the government to amend the JobKeeper scheme to allow priests to receive this government support they are claiming a de facto employee relationship. The JobKeeper scheme is designed to maintain the employee and employer relationship during the COVID-19 health crisis,” Dr Morrison said.
“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.”