Anglican bishop announces plan to sell churches to pay for child sex abuse compensation

An Anglican bishop in New South Wales, Australia, has announced he will continue on with a plan to sell a number of churches in the Central West to raise funds they need to pay more than $2 million in compensation to victims of child sex abuse.

(WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / Cfitzart)St Johns Church, the oldest church in Canberra. 23 September 2005.

In a written message to parishioners of St. Aidan's Anglican Church at Black Springs in Oberon, Bishop of Bathurst Ian Palmer said the small parish would be one of those that would be shut down and sold. The announcement stirred uproar among the worshippers, with some saying the money raised from the sale of their church would only be a very small amount, ABC Online relayed.

"I am committed to showing practical compassion to people who have been abused and I will work with people in the diocese in order to do it in a way which is helpful to us all," Bishop Palmer said in his announcement. "We've got more than a dozen properties across the diocese that we are in the process of selling in order to meet the challenges of paying redress for those who have been abused."

For parishioner Anne Wilson, selling the church is not the solution to the problem. She understood that the church has to pay for sex abuse victims' compensation but pointed out that the parish still had more money compared to the amount that would be raised through the sale.

The Oberon Council has also joined the congregation in appealing with Bishop Palmer not to push through with the sale of St. Aidan's. Mayor Kathy Sajowitz said the move would cause some parishioners to travel 160 kilometers just to attend church service. Despite their pleas, Palmer remained unmoved with his decision.

Earlier this year, a report found that all except one of the Anglican Church dioceses in Australia had recorded child sex abuse complaints in the last 35 years. The church conveyed its shame over the findings of the Royal Commission into Child Sexual Abuse, ABC reported.

Aside from that, the commission found that only 25 percent of the complainants got an apology from the church. Victims also reportedly received an average compensation of $67,000.