St John of God response

The Catholic Saint John of God in Australia denied to comment on the abuse claims. Photo: Wikimedia
The Catholic Saint John of God in Australia denied to comment on the abuse claims. Photo: Wikimedia
The Brothers Hospitallers of St John of God do not want to talk about abuse victim Darryl Smith.

The Catholic order's Australian head, provincial Brother Timothy Graham, declined to comment when contacted by ODT Insight.

He referred questions to the order's law firm, which said it would be ''inappropriate'' to comment while discussions with Mr Smith's lawyers continued.

SJOG spokesman Simon Feely also responded to a request for comment with a blunt text: ''If it's to do with Darryl Smith, there's nothing to say that's not been said.''

It is a defensiveness that perhaps partly reflects the spotlight on the Catholic order, and the wider Church in Australia, since the launch, back in 2013, of a Royal Commission into institutional responses to child sexual abuse.

A final report was not due until December, but in February the commission revealed almost 4500 people had complained about almost 2000 members of the Catholic clergy across Australia between 1950 and 2010.

Within St John of God, 40% of its clergy had been accused and allegations of a cover-up had been raised, Australian media have reported.

The order had already settled a class action in 2002, agreeing to pay $3.6 million in compensation to a group of 24 victims in Victoria, before paying millions more to settle claims from victims of Marylands in Christchurch.

The payments were just a slice of the $276 million paid by the Catholic Church to thousands of victims across Australia between 1980 and 2015, the Sydney Morning Herald reported in February.

Despite that, Br Graham, speaking to Australia's ABC News in 2012, insisted the Catholic order was acting responsibly.

''We've been the focus of two serious police investigations - one in New Zealand, one in Victoria ... I would say that we were dealing with these people's complaints in the best way that we could, in a compassionate way, with justice,'' he said.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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