Pell Failed Child Sex Abuse Victim - Royal Commission
12 February 2015 at 8:51 am
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has found that Cardinal George Pell and the Sydney Catholic Archdiocese repeatedly failed in their dealings with Sydney abuse victim John Ellis.
The criticism comes in a new Royal Commission Report, Report of Case Study 8: Mr John Ellis’s experience of the Towards Healing process and civil litigation.
The Report found that Cardinal Pell “did not act fairly from a Christian point of view in the conduct of the litigation against Mr Ellis".
The Commission examined the treatment of John Ellis, a Sydney lawyer and former altar boy who was abused by Father Aidan Duggan between 1974 and 1979.
The report said Ellis 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.
The Report said Ellis had asked for $100,000 for compensation through the church's Towards Healing scheme in 2002, but was offered $30,000, a sum Cardinal Pell later described as "grotesque".
However the Commission Report said the Church spent more than $1 million over 12 years fighting John Ellis's claim, continuing to deny that the abuse had happened.
The report said “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 Royal Commission handed down 34 findings into the case, including that the church repeatedly failed John Ellis in its internal handling of his complaint and during the litigation process.
The Towards Healing protocol is a set of principles and procedures established by the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference and the Australian Conference of Leaders of Religious Institutes.
It contains principles and procedures for handling complaints of sexual abuse by a priest, religious or other Catholic Church personnel. It was introduced in 1997 and revised in 2000, 2003, 2008 and 2010.
The Commissioners found that the Archdiocese of Sydney fundamentally failed Mr Ellis in its conduct of the Towards Healing process by not complying with the principles of Towards Healing and not giving him the assistance demanded by justice and compassion when determining the amount of reparation offered to Ellis, and by not providing him with a spiritual director.
The Commissioners also found that the Archdiocese of Sydney failed to conduct the litigation with John Ellis in a manner that adequately took account of his pastoral and other needs as a victim of sexual abuse.
“The Archdiocese wrongly concluded that it had never accepted that Father Duggan had abused Mr Ellis. This conclusion allowed Cardinal Pell to instruct the Archdiocese’s lawyers to maintain the non-admission of Mr Ellis’s abuse,” the report said.
As the Royal Commission released its report, the Director of the ultra-orthodox Jewish Yeshiva centre in Sydney, Rabbi Yosef Feldman announced his resignation after last week telling a Royal Commission he did not know it was a crime for an adult to touch a child's genitals.
In a statement issued on Wednesday, Rabbi Feldman said he would step down from all responsibilities as the Director on the Board of Management at Yeshiva.
"I apologise to anyone in the Rabbinate, the Jewish community and the wider Australian community who may have been embarrassed or ashamed by my views, words, understandings, recordings or emails about child sexual abuse or any other matter," he said.
"I have dedicated my life to doing whatever I can to protect and assist all people in need including those who have suffered from any form of abuse, especially children, and it pains me greatly that words that I have expressed have upset victims and their families.
"In the future I will be more careful with my words, so that they are only a source of pride to the Jewish and General community.
"I commit to undertake formal training and education on how to identify, handle and report abuse allegations."