THE Catholic Church has been flooded with 350 sex-abuse complaints in Melbourne, Australia.
An estimated $6 million has been paid out to victims. The church has compensated hundreds who have suffered sexual assault, rape and humiliation by Catholic figures using its nationwide $153 million insurance fund.
A Herald Sun investigation reveals that:
THE church has offered as little as $2000 to some victims, despite a maximum of $55,000 being available.
IN THE three months to September, four priests were accused of breaking their vow of chastity after having consensual sex.
OVER the same period in Victoria, nine complaints were received about abuse at church-run institutions, with another 13 sexual assault complaints.
A BISHOP accused by police of covering up complaints served on a prestige board with Cardinal George Pell.
At least 350 complaints have been dealt with by the Melbourne archdiocese in the past 12 years, an administrator said.
The Melbourne archdiocese refuses to discuss how much it has paid in compensation, saying only that the figure reached into the millions.
But it has previously revealed $3 million had been paid out in the first six years of the scheme. The number of complaints it has received has more than doubled since then.
The church in Victoria handles sex-abuse complaints through two schemes. One covers the Melbourne archdiocese and the other, called Towards Healing, covers the rest of Victoria.
Payouts for Towards Healing sex-abuse claims are partially paid for by Catholic Church Insurances Limited. The company posted a $85 million operating profit last financial year, pocketing $153 million in premium revenue.
The Herald Sun uncovered the depth of the insurer's pockets as police close in on a notorious network of abusers based in Ballarat.
Christian Brother Robert Charles Best, 67, is facing more than 35 sex-related charges, including rape, over alleged attacks on six young boys in Ballarat during the 1970s and '80s. Australia's most senior Catholic, Cardinal George Pell, served in Ballarat from 1973.
For a short time, he shared a home with pedophile priest Gerald Ridsdale who is now in jail for abusing 40 children. Ballarat's then bishop Ronald Mulkearns was the subject of a police investigation into claims that he tried to cover up Father Ridsdale's activity by moving the priest between parishes.
The probe ended in 1995 and Bishop Mulkearns denied any cover-up.
Despite the allegations, Bishop Mulkearns remained a director of the Conference of the Catholic Church, serving alongside George Pell for seven months, until Bishop Mulkearns stepped down in November 1997.
Bishop Peter Connors of the Ballarat Diocese said they had handled about 25 complaints in the past decade with many implicating Father Ridsdale and Brother Frank Best.