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Archbishop wanted case settled

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The archbishop of Melbourne told Catholic Church lawyers to settle a case with the family of pedophile priest victims rather than go to court.

Christine and Anthony Foster won a $750,000 settlement from the Melbourne archdiocese after two of their daughters were raped by notorious abuser Father Kevin O’Donnell.

· Pell faces royal commission

Church lawyer Richard Leder told the child abuse royal commission Melbourne Archbishop Denis Hart had “strongly held views that every effort should be made to settle”.

He said the church could have argued it could not be legally sued, but Archbishop Hart did not want to go down that route.

“While that would be a legal victory, that would not be a victory that the archbishop would have enjoyed,” Mr Leder told the commission on Thursday.

His answer drew jeers from the public gallery.

Commission chair Justice Peter McClellan said that approach was different to how the then Archbishop of Sydney, Cardinal George Pell, argued a similar case in NSW, using the “Ellis defence”.

John Ellis was abused while an altar boy but lost his compensation court case because the church successfully argued it was not a legal entity that could be sued.

Cardinal Pell told the royal commission earlier in the year he now believed the church should create a legal entity that could be sued.