The Age Victoria, Australia
Religion editor, The Age.
The Catholic Church has apologised for “legally abusing” a sexual abuse victim who lost a landmark compensation case after the church argued it could not be sued.
Asked for $750,000 in compensation for the abuse of John Ellis, the church instead spent almost exactly that sum “vigorously defending” the case, and later pursued him for those costs. Instead of giving him $750,000, it sought $755,000 from him.
Mr Ellis reveals correspondence between him and the church in a submission to the Victorian inquiry into how the churches handled sexual abuse. His evidence, posted on the parliamentary inquiry’s website on Wednesday, is a reply to Sydney Archbishop Cardinal George Pell’s evidence last month.
Mr Ellis says the cardinal provided “false and misleading” testimony to the inquiry about his case.
In the Ellis case, the NSW Court of Appeal found in 2007 that neither the Sydney archdiocese trustees nor archbishop were liable for child sexual abuse by a priest. Asked to identify who should answer his claim, the archdiocese refused to do so, saying the person liable was the priest who abused him.
In his reply to Cardinal Pell, Mr Ellis says there “seems to have been recently a significant resurgence of the fiction” that the church’s corporate entities are only concerned with property dealings.
He says the church is in a unique position because it can take all the benefits of corporate existence, yet disclaim the liabilities.
Mr Ellis says Cardinal Pell implies the church paid him informal compensation after the appeal, and waived its costs. But, far from offering him assistance, it pursued an order for $755,000 in costs for more than a year.
He says it later withdrew that demand, reimbursed some of his costs, including money he gave to other victims, and paid for regular therapy with a psychiatrist, and this assistance was “beneficial and appreciated”.
But he had to approach the archdiocese with each request for help, which was often demeaning and embarrassing, and payments were sometimes delayed for more than six months.
In his evidence, Cardinal Pell said the Ellis case involved the common-sense proposition that you couldn’t be responsible for the wrong-doing of others unless you were responsible for supervising them, and therefore Mr Ellis had sued the wrong people. He said the church had remitted Mr Ellis’s costs and paid him about $500,000 in compensation.
Mr Ellis said pursuing costs compounded his trauma, and the church stopped only after a plea from his wife because of the effect on his mental health.
He said he had never been offered a lump-sum settlement or any compensation for abuse, apart from an original offer of $30,000 which was never paid.
The cardinal’s apology is part of a 2009 letter from Sydney chancellor John Usher to Mr Ellis. Father Usher wrote that Cardinal Pell apologised that the archdiocese moved without explanation from an offer to negotiate to “vigorously defending” the case, and promised to do “all in his power to ensure that this sort of legal abuse is never repeated again”.
Cardinal Pell’s spokeswoman said: “While we have not yet had an opportunity to review closely Mr Ellis’s submission to the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry, on first glance it seems some of his claims are unclear. The fact remains the Archdiocese of Sydney waived the court costs, as well as paying Mr Ellis $570,365 for counselling and other costs he determined, including significant renovations to his home, because he was a victim of clergy sexual abuse.”
As recently as Tuesday night, a retired priest was arrested at Wentworth Falls in the Blue Mountains over allegations he indecently assaulted a number of boys in the 70s and 80s.
The 70-year-old was granted conditional bail and will front a Penrith court on July 29.
Detectives from Strike Force Nemesis are continuing to investigate claims made in the wake of the royal commission.
Anyone with information can phone Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 ________________________
Documents show Catholic Church concealed abuse in NSW Hunter Valley
ABC News Australia
Updated Wed Jul 3, 2013 6:41pm AEST
By Dan Cox
Documents tendered to a New South Wales inquiry into child sexual abuse in the Hunter Valley show senior Catholic Church officials knew about abuse by two paedophile priests, but failed to tell police.
The inquiry was sparked by Detective Chief Inspector Peter Fox.
He claims the Maitland-Newcastle Catholic Diocese did not co-operate with police, who were investigating priests James Fletcher and Denis McAlinden over child sexual abuse allegations.
Counsel assisting the commission today tendered numerous documents which Peter Fox said would have proved helpful with his investigations into the men.
The documents show the former Maitland-Newcastle Bishop Leo Clarke tried to defrock McAlinden, rather than tell police about the allegations.
In 1995 Bishop Clarke wrote to the Pope’s representative in Canberra asking him to use his “network of contacts to expedite a very delicate matter”.
Other documents show bishops in the Philippines, Papua New Guinea and England were warned about McAlinden’s abuse.
A letter from Bishop Clarke to a bishop in the English parish of Nottingham explains that complaints had been made about McAlinden’s “behaviour with small children” and that he admitted to the abuse.
In another letter from Bishop Clarke, he includes two addresses for McAlinden.
Police were searching for the priest, and Peter Fox told the inquiry the information would have helped with organising an arrest warrant or an application for McAlinden’s extradition.
Peter Fox told the commission some of the documents show Bishop Clarke knew about more victims of McAlinden, but “continued to conceal the names”.
McAlinden fought his removal from the ministry and was not defrocked or charged before he died.