BATHURST’S Anglican diocese is preparing a new list of potential asset sales as it braces for multi-million dollar compensation payouts to past victims of sexual abuse.
Bishop Ian Palmer wrote to parishioners at the weekend asking them to identify assets within their communities that could be sold to help raise the expected $2 million compensation bill.
It comes just a year after the diocese was forced into a fire sale of assets – including Bathurst’s All Saints’ College – to help repay a $40 million debt to the Commonwealth Bank.
Bishop Palmer said in the letter to parishioners that the Royal Commission Into Institutional Responses To Child Sexual Abuse had highlighted the damage to victims of historical cases of abuse by members of the clergy.
He said the Bathurst diocese had already paid out more than $1 million in compensation over the past 18 months.
“Often the damage to life, relationships, work habits, employment and such like can only be adequately met through the payment of redress,” the letter stated.
“I see it as a moral responsibility to respond with practical, financial assistance.”
Speaking to the Western Advocate, Bishop Palmer said he wanted local parishioners to share in the responsibility of identifying assets to be sold.
“The letter was asking [parishioners] to identify properties that could be sold in order to meet our obligations,” he said.
“I am putting responsibility back on the parishes to look very carefully at what they regard as being excess properties to what they need.”
But, Bishop Palmer said, the Anglican diocese remained a “strong and effective” church within the Central West and was not looking to reduce its ministries, even if local church assets are sold.
“For example, in the Parish of Narromine we have been able to sell the church building in Trangie because we have been working with the local Uniting Church to do our ministry there,” he said.
“The church building has been bought by a local community group for a local project which means it is now being used seven days a week instead of one.”
Bishop Palmer would not disclose just how many historical abuse cases there might be across the diocese.
“I’m not prepared to comment on any particular cases but we need to be absolutely clear about what the Royal Commission has said and that we are not to avoid meeting our obligations to people for redress,” he said.
“This is not arising from particular cases but in a sense it’s a part of keeping the parishioners up-to-date with what is going on.”
The Anglican Diocese of Bathurst covers about a third of NSW, stretching from the Blue Mountains to the Queensland border, including parishes in Bathurst, Orange and Dubbo.