Reports damn Aussie Church responses to abuse victims

Reports released by an Australian royal commission have condemned the way the Catholic Church acted towards sexual abuse victims in several cases.

On February 11, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse released reports on the John Ellis case and on the Church’s Towards Healing protocol.

The four cases dealt with in the reports were the subjects of public hearings last year.

Cardinal George Pell and Sydney archdiocese were found to have fought a legal claim against a victim, John Ellis, to discourage others from attempting the same.

Mr Ellis was put through “distressing and unnecessary cross-examination” and threatened him with legal costs.

In 2007, Mr Ellis lost on a technicality in the Court of Appeal, which ruled the Church could not be sued.

The commission’s report outlined how the Church initially acknowledged Mr Ellis had been abused, but went on to “vigorously defend” itself.

This included denying the abuse had occurred.

The Church also failed to disclose that a witness to Mr Ellis’ abuse and another victim of the same abusive priest had come forward during the litigation process.

The report found that the Archdiocese of Sydney “fundamentally failed” Mr Ellis by not complying with its own policies on sexual abuse claims under Towards Healing.

The commission agreed with Cardinal Pell’s admission in evidence that “the archdiocese, the trustees and he as archbishop, did not act fairly from a Christian point of view in the conduct of the litigation against Mr Ellis”.

The Church was also found to be unfair, mean and in breach of its own protocols in other cases.

Actions included placing a gag order on a victim as part of a compensation deal, denying and covering up evidence, and a conflict of interest by Church personnel.

The royal commission’s report into Towards Healing found a raft of “systemic issues”.

It said it was “surprised” by the Church’s submission which posited the Towards Healing protocol was a position statement and the suggestion of “possible steps” in a “flexible” process.

This served to excuse or justify departures from the protocol, the report stated.


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