A FEBRUARY 2013 meeting has ignited a war of words between Ballarat Bishop Paul Bird and clergy sexual abuse survivor Andrew Collins.
The meeting was held between Bishop Bird, Mr Collins and fellow survivor Peter Blenkiron to discuss the diocese footing the bill for the difference between the disability support pension, which many survivors live on, and the returned servicemen’s pension, which is an extra $256 a week.
Giving evidence to the royal commission earlier this week, Mr Collins said Bishop Bird said at the meeting the church would endure long after the victims were dead, and that they were trying to bankrupt the diocese.
But in a statement to the royal commission on Friday, Bishop Bird claimed he had said: “Such a proposal would be beyond the resources of the diocese.”
He also said he never said they were “intent on destroying his church”.
“I did not attribute any such motive to Mr Collins or Mr Blenkiron. I saw them as men who were seeking assistance for themselves and others in a similar situation.”
Bishop Bird also said he did not say the church would endure after the victims were all dead. “Making such a comment to anyone, let alone a victim of sexual abuse, would be extremely hurtful and I would not do so.”
But Mr Collins, speaking outside the royal commission, said he was “very disappointed” by Bishop Bird’s statement.
“He is skirting around the whole issue. Anybody who makes any comment about Bishop Bird is called a liar,” he said.
He said he was “angry, very angry” about being labelled a liar.
“They (the church’s lawyers) had an opportunity to cross-examine all statements, but he’s said, ‘No I’m a bishop, I’m much better than you’.”
Mr Collins said he had yet to see Bishop Bird come out in the media and actively engage with the community over the clergy sexual abuse issue.