The Catholic Church has reached an undisclosed settlement with a man who was aged nine when raped by prolific pedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale.
Lawyer Judy Courtin represented the victim in a civil case at the Supreme Court of Victoria, and on Friday confirmed a settlement was reached on Thursday, Sept. 26.
Courtin declined to quantify the payout, but multiple media reports indicate the church could pay more than $1 million in compensation to the man who was raped in a confessional at Mortlake, in Victoria’s west, in 1982.
The settlement comes after the church admitted in court earlier in September it was responsible for the victim’s abuse.
During that admission, it was revealed the late Bishop Ronald Mulkearns knew about a previous complaint against Ridsdale sexually abusing a child in 1975.
The Diocese of Ballarat admitted it subsequently failed to take any reasonable steps to protect the victim from Ridsdale in the 1980s.
Courtin said this was the first civil case she was aware of in which the church had publicly admitted legal liability, ahead of a settlement.
But that admission was hard-won, with her team starting work on the lawsuit in November 2017.
“It’s taken us a very long time, and courage on behalf of the client as well,” she said on Friday, Sept. 27.
“Accountability on behalf of the church is enormous and it says a lot about justice.”
The lawyer said her client, known only as JCB, was relieved the case—which he pursued in tribute to other victims—was over.
“He’s very relieved that the church finally did the right thing, albeit we had to force them to through the courts.”
The settlement was struck in a pre-trial mediation session and means a trial scheduled for January won’t go ahead.
Courtin said the case could only be brought forward because of legal changes made following the child sex abuse royal commission in 2016.
“Hopefully it will give courage to other survivors and victims to come forward.”
The church has been contacted for comment.
By Marnie Banger