Thoughts of a Catholic convert

My Photo
Location: United States

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Cardinal Pell and the Ellis sex abuse case

Cardinal George Pell, who Pope Francis chose as one of his advisers and who the pope chose to be the Prefect of the Secretariat for the Economy, has been shown to have misrepresented the facts in the notorious John Ellis sex abuse case in Australia ... George Pell’s account of handling of abuse case contradicted .... Royal Commission: George Pell was calling all the shots ... Royal Commission: George Pell participated in 'absence' of justice' for John Ellis.

Cardinal Pell was 'giving instructions' as Catholic church fought abuse claims ...

Claims by Cardinal George Pell that he had little to do with the conduct of the notorious Ellis case have been flatly contradicted by the church’s own lawyer in dramatic testimony on Tuesday to the royal commission into the institutional response to child abuse. “I didn’t have any doubt the cardinal was being kept up to date on developments in the case,” Paul McCann of church lawyers Corrs, Chambers, Westgarth told the commission. “He was giving instructions on various steps.”

John Ellis sued Pell and the trustees of the Catholic church in 2005 after being refused compensation for his abuse at the hands of Father Aidan Duggan. After a hard-fought contest, Ellis lost. The decision made legal history, confirming the Catholic church in Australia is unsueable. For years the church demanded Ellis pay its legal costs of $750,000 ...

Yes, you read correctly ... the Ellis case deemed the Catholic Church in Australia cannot be sued! You may have read recently that Pell said he thought the church could actually be sued ..... but ...

Don't ring the bells yet. The Catholic church isn't planning to open its wallet

Don’t start ringing the bells. The Catholic church is a long way from letting itself be sued like any other church. It knows it can no longer defend a privilege that has saved hundreds of millions of dollars since the child abuse scandal broke decades ago. But it isn’t planning to open its wallet.

One of the great powers of a royal commission is to embarrass. Cardinal Pell and the bishops can see terrible embarrassment looming as the royal commission into institutional response to child sexual abuse turns its sights on the privileged protection of the Catholic church from the courts.

As the gaunt figure of John Ellis took the stand at the commission this week, Pell and the bishops expressed regret once more for past mistakes and made vague undertakings to do things better now. Pell won sympathetic headlines by disowning the ordeal he put Ellis through: “My own view is that the church in Australia should be able to be sued in cases of this kind.”

Ellis had been abused for years as a boy and young man. He had been willing to settle for $100,000 but Pell called in his Melbourne lawyers and $1.5m was spent on fees to block Ellis and confirm the Catholic church in this country doesn’t exist in law, doesn’t employ its priests, isn’t responsible for their crimes and has successfully locked its assets away from victims.

Ellis told the commission how this 2006 defeat plunged him into even deeper depression for he knew his case had made things worse for victims. “Ellis” became the legal shorthand for decisions that force most victims to take what church protocols – the Melbourne Response and Towards Healing – care to offer them.


He [Pell] does not want the church to be given a corporate identity that would allow it to be sued. All other major faiths in Australia can be sued. So can the Catholic church in most countries in the world. But Pell wants to keep the current situation where victims of abuse by parish priests have no choice but to sue the priest or his estate of perhaps his bishop.

At present that’s futile because there is, at the end of the day, no money to be won from old priests, poor estates and retired bishops. he assets of the church remained locked up in property trusts. But Pell is proposing that the church itself should stump up the damages.

That is a historic proposition. Here he has the backing of the bishops. According to the Truth, Justice and Healing Council, which represents the church before the royal commission, the bishops have given verbal support to the principle that in future the church must pay damages when victims win in court.

But the bishops want this to flow from the fundamental change Pell flinches from: they want the church to become a corporate identity like other churches which would allow it to be sued and so be liable in the ordinary way when courts order damages to be paid.

Even so, suing the church would remain extremely difficult ...


Post a Comment

<< Home