Cardinal George Pell, Sydney Archdiocese failed child sex abuse victim John Ellis, inquiry finds
Cardinal George Pell and the Sydney Catholic Archdiocese repeatedly failed in their dealings with abuse victim John Ellis, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has found.
Early last year, the commission examined the treatment of Mr Ellis, a Sydney lawyer and former altar boy who, as a teenager, was abused by Father Aidan Duggan between 1974 and 1979.
Mr Ellis later spent more than a decade seeking compensation but lost the case on a technicality in 2007 when the Court of Appeal ruled the Catholic Church was not an entity that could be sued.
He had asked for $100,000 after he first came forward with a complaint through the church’s Towards Healing pastoral and redress scheme in 2002, but was offered $30,000, a sum Cardinal Pell later described as “grotesque”.
The commission heard that the church spent more than $1 million over 12 years fighting Mr Ellis’s claim, denying in court that the abuse had happened and threatening him with court costs for several years.
The Archdiocese failed to conduct the litigation with Mr Ellis in a manner that adequately took account of his pastoral and other needs as a victim of sexual abuse.Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
Cardinal Pell was Archbishop of Sydney at the time of Mr Ellis’s legal battle and later apologised to him, admitting the church failed in its moral and pastoral responsibilities and, “from a Christian point of view”, did not act fairly.
The commission today handed down 34 findings into the case, including that the church repeatedly failed Mr Ellis in its internal handling of his complaint and during the litigation process.
“The Archdiocese failed to conduct the litigation with Mr Ellis in a manner that adequately took account of his pastoral and other needs as a victim of sexual abuse,” the commission’s report stated.
Most damningly, the report’s authors agreed with Cardinal Pell’s evidence that he, the Archdiocese and the Church Trustees “did not act fairly from a Christian point of view in the conduct of the litigation against Mr Ellis”.
The commission found the church’s former director of professional standards for NSW and ACT, John Davoren, did not comply with the church’s own Towards Healing internal investigation procedures and “did not make a compassionate response his first priority”.
The commission’s report also outlined how the church initially acknowledged Mr Ellis had been abused but went on to “vigorously defend” itself, including denying the abuse had occured and forcing Mr Ellis into days of upsetting cross-examination.
The church also failed to disclose that a witness to Mr Ellis’ abuse and another victim of Father Duggan had come forward during the litigation process.
The commission found the church did not tell Mr Ellis it had decided not to pursue him for legal costs of more than $500,000 for more than a year after that decision was made, a length of time that had an adverse effect on his health.