The leaders of the Catholic Church in Australia commit
ourselves to endeavour to repair the wrongs of the past and
to do everything we can to ensure a safer future.
The Protection of Children and the Royal Commission
The emotional, physical and spiritual safety, well-being and dignity of children is an integral part of the teachings and values of the Catholic Church. The Archdiocese is wholly committed to ensuring the safety, well-being and dignity of all children, and acknowledges its important legal, moral and spiritual responsibility to create a safe and nurturing environment for those children.
The community has very clear expectations in matters relating to child protection and expects children will be protected from all forms of harm including sexual, physical and psychological harm, ill treatment and neglect.
The Archdiocese supports these expectations and strives to promote the safety and protection of children and other vulnerable persons in its care.
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse:
The Archdiocese has for a long time been very clear in acknowledging the problem of sexual abuse, the pain victims and families have experienced and the deep concern this has caused among Catholics and the wider community.
Sexual abuse of children is a shameful and serious crime. Serious mistakes have been made in the past however the church has been working for a number of years to improve our response to sexual abuse. A significant break was made in 1996 with the establishment of Towards Healing, the national process established by the Australian bishops and religious orders which the Archdiocese follows. We recognise the police are best placed to investigate sexual abuse allegations. Towards Healing requires allegations of criminal conduct to be reported to the police and other authorities. Since it was established there have been two independent reviews in 1999-2000 and 2008-09.
In November 2012 the Archdiocese welcomed the Federal Government’s announcement of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse. The Archdiocese has also been very clear and consistent in its response, maintaining that prevention, justice and healing for the victims of sexual abuse always come first.
- The victims of sexual abuse are our first priority
- Preventing abuse and protecting people
- Sexual abuse is a crime which must be reported to police
- No protection of abusers and no cover-ups.
The Response of the Archdiocese of Sydney to Sexual Abuse
The Response of the Archdiocese of Sydney to Sexual Abuse
- STATEMENT FROM MOST REV. ANTHONY FISHER OP ARCHBISHOP OF SYDNEY (PDF) – Updated on 15 Dec 2017
- Statement on Responding to Claims of Child Sexual Abuse by Clergy/Church Workers of the Archdiocese (PDF) – updated on 9 March 2016
- Archdiocese of Sydney Response to Sexual Abuse (PDF) – 2012
Three Crucial Facts
- The Archdiocese reports allegations of sexual abuse to the police
- The Ombudsman monitors church investigations and outcomes in child protection matters
- The establishment of the Towards Healing procedures in 1996 was a significant improvement in trying to assist victims and their families and a break with past procedures
Commitment Statement from Catholic Church Leaders
Commitment Statement from Catholic Church Leaders
The Catholic Church in Australia, in its submissions to the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse and in its communications with both the Catholic and broader communities, has made the following commitment:
The leaders of the Catholic Church in Australia recognise and acknowledge the devastating harm caused to people by the crime of child sexual abuse.
We take this opportunity to state:
- Sexual abuse of a child by a priest or religious is a crime under Australian law and under canon law.
- Sexual abuse of a child by any Church personnel, whenever it occurred, was then and is now indefensible.
- That such abuse has occurred at all, and the extent to which it has occurred, are facts of which the whole Church in Australia is deeply ashamed.
- The Church fully and unreservedly acknowledges the devastating, deep and ongoing impact of sexual abuse on the lives of the victims and their families.
- The Church acknowledges that many victims were not believed when they should have been.
- The Church is also ashamed to acknowledge that, in some cases, those in positions of authority concealed or covered up what they knew of the facts, moved perpetrators to another place, thereby enabling them to offend again, or failed to report matters to the police when they should have. That behaviour too is indefensible.
- Too often in the past it is clear some Church leaders gave too high a priority to protecting the reputation of the Church, its priests, religious and other personnel, over the protection of children and their families, and over compassion and concern for those who suffered at the hands of Church personnel. That too was and is inexcusable.
- In such ways, Church leaders betrayed the trust of their own people and the expectations of the wider community.
- For all these things the Church is deeply sorry. It apologises to all those who have been harmed and betrayed. It humbly asks for forgiveness.
The leaders of the Catholic Church in Australia commit ourselves to endeavour to repair the wrongs of the past, to listen to and hear victims, to put their needs first, and to do everything we can to ensure a safer future for children.
Truth, Justice and Healing Council
Truth, Justice and Healing Council
Shortly after the announcement of the Royal Commission, the two overarching Catholic Church organisations, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia, which together represent dioceses, archdioceses and religious congregations across Australia, established the Truth, Justice and Healing Council.
The Council has been established in recognition of the importance of the Royal Commission and the imperative for the Church to address the past openly and honestly, the good with the bad. The formation of the Council will allow the Church to speak with one voice before the Royal Commission representing the numerous organisations that make up the Catholic Church.
The Truth, Justice and Healing Council will oversee the Church’s engagement with the Royal Commission by:
- Speaking for the Church in matters related to the Commission and child sexual abuse;
- Coordinating the Church’s legal representation at the Commission;
- Identifying systematic institutional failures that have impeded the protection of children; and
- Indicating to the Commission the procedures that have been put in place over the past 20 years.
The Council will also:
- Initiate research into best practice procedures, policies and structures to protect children in the future;
- Make submissions to the Commission about the procedures, policies and structures in place today and the improvements intended to be made; and
- Promote lasting healing for the victims and survivors of previous abuse.
The Council will approach its task with openness, courage and humility.
For further information on the Truth Justice and Healing Council including Council members, reports on Commission hearings, support services for victims and survivors, resources, media releases and more
The 12 members of the Council include men and women with professional and other expertise in the areas of child sexual abuse, paedophilia, trauma, mental illness, suicide, education, public administration and governance.
- Truth Justice and Healing Council CEO Meets Townsville Bishop and Other Locals (PDF)
- Members of Truth Justice and Healing Council Announced (PDF)
- Truth Justice and Healing Council Welcomes Pope’s statement on Church Sexual Abuse (PDF)
- National Child Abuse Compensation – with no caps – should be considered (PDF)
Child abuse is a criminal offence and the police are the appropriate authority to handle criminal investigations.
Sexual abuse has no place in the Church. The law requires serious crimes to be reported to the police and the policy of the Archdiocese is to report all allegations of sexual abuse to the police.
Police:If you have a complaint you can contact the NSW Police Child Protection and Sex Crimes Squad through your local police station or Crimestoppers NSW on 1800 333 000
For all urgent matters regarding a child at imminent risk of significant harm please phone the Child Protection Helpline on 132 111 or 000.
The Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney has a Safeguarding and Ministerial Integrity Office. The Director is Karen Larkman and the email address is firstname.lastname@example.org
And the phone number is 93905810.
Towards Healing: This is the national process established by Australian bishops and religious orders which the Archdiocese of Sydney follows in responding to complaints of sexual abuse. It has undergone two independent reviews. Towards Healing requires allegations of criminal conduct to be reported to police and other authorities. Towards Healing contact 1300 36 99 77.
There is also further information on the Australia Catholic Bishops Conference here http://www.catholic.org.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1139&Itemid=190For the Towards Healing document click here and The Integrity in the Service of the Church document click here.
There is also further information on the Australia Catholic Bishops Conference here http://www.catholic.org.au/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=1139&Itemid=190
Professional Standards Office NSW/ACT: A National Committee for Professional Standards was established by the Catholic bishops and leaders of religious institutes to oversee the development of policy, principles and procedures in responding to Church-related abuse complaints. Each state has a Director of Professional Standards to advise and assist in matters concerning professional standards and to appoint suitable persons to act as contact persons, support persons, assessors, facilitators and reviewers of the process. The number for Professional Standards Office NSW/ACT is 9287 1542 or email@example.com
For more details of the process go to Professional Standard Office
Royal Commission Hearing
Royal Commission Hearing
The Royal Commission is inquiring into how institutions with a responsibility for children have managed and responded to allegations and instances of child sexual abuse.
It is investigating where systems have failed to protect children and make recommendations on how to improve laws, policies and practices to prevent and better respond to child sexual abuse in institutions.
The Commissioners can look at private, public or non-government organisations that is, or was in the past, involved with children, including government agencies, schools, sporting clubs, orphanages, foster care and religious organisations.
The Hon. Justice Peter McClellan AM has been appointed Chair of the Commission. There are give other commissioners and all have been appointed for three years however there have already been suggestions the commission could well be much longer.
For all information on the commission you can visit the official website here http://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/Pages/default.aspx
- Royal Commission Final Hearing on Catholic Church
Royal Commission Final Hearing on Catholic Church
ARCHBISHOP ANTHONY FISHER OP PASTORAL MESSAGE IN RESPONSE TO THE BEGINNING OF THE ROYAL COMMISSION’S FINAL HEARING ON THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
Please read Archbishop’s statement here
- 06 Feb 17 – Day 1 – Summary
- 07 Feb 17 – Day 2 – Summary
- 08 Feb 17 – Day 3 – Summary
- 09 Feb 17 – Day 4 – Summary
- 10 Feb 17 – Day 5 – Summary
- 13 Feb 17 – Day 6 – Summary
- 14 Feb 17 – Day 7 – Summary
- 15 Feb 17 – Day 8 – Summary
- 16 Feb 17 – Day 9 – Summary
- 20 Feb 17 – Day 10 – Summary
- 21 Feb 17 – Day 11 – Summary
- 23 Feb 17 – Day 13 – Summary
- 24 Feb 17 – Day 14 – Summary
- Royal Commission Melbourne Hearings
Royal Commission Melbourne Hearings
This is Case Study 35 for the Royal Commission, but the hearings will also involve a return to Case Study 28, which began in May and focussed on the Diocese of Ballarat.
This will be the second time the Royal Commission will hold a public hearing into the Archdiocese of Melbourne, the first being during August 2014. Those hearings considered the process established by the Archdiocese to respond to complaints of abuse, known as the Melbourne Response, by looking at the experience of three sets of survivors and their engagement in that process.
This week, the Commission’s attention was drawn to the parish and school of Holy Family, Doveton and the way complaints about priests were handled by the Archdiocese and the Catholic Education Office. So far, the Commission has heard from two survivors, a former principal and former teacher from the school, Catholic Education Office personnel and the former Vicar General of the Archdiocese, Bishop Peter Connors.
Bishop Connors is the first of four Bishops who will appear at this hearing, with Melbourne’s Archbishop Denis Hart, Bishop Emeritus Hilton Deakin and Cardinal George Pell also scheduled to provide evidence in the coming weeks.
- Ballarat Hearing Adjourned
Ballarat Hearing Adjourned
The Royal Commission completed phase two of its hearings into Case Study 28 on Wednesday.
Case Study 28 focussed on the Diocese of Ballarat, phase two was particularly concerned with the knowledge of the Bishop and Priests of the Diocese in relation to allegations of child abuse, and the response of the Diocese to those allegations.Â
The hearings this week contained testimony mainly from former secretaries and vicars general to Bishop Ronald Mulkearns, who was Bishop of Ballarat from 1971 until 1997.Â Witnesses included Bishop Brian Finnigan (now auxiliary Bishop of Brisbane), and Fathers Brian McDermott, John McKinnon, Lawrence O’Toole and Dan Arundell.
The Commission also heard from Father John Walshe, who was with Cardinal George Pell at the time he received a phone call from survivor David Ridsdale, in which Ridsdale alleges Cardinal Pell offered him a bribe.Â Father Walshe’s refutation of that allegation was the subject of two days of examination by counsel assisting the Commission, during which Father Walshe was accused of fabricating evidence.
The third part of the Ballarat hearing will start again on 22 February 2016 for another two weeks.
This will be in Ballarat.
On 5 February thee will be a directions hearing in Sydney for the Commission to hear an update on the status of Cardinal Pell’s health.
Summaries for each day of hearings, as well as a link to commentary on the treatment of Father Walshe during his testimony, are available below.
- Ellis Case Study (No. 8) Finding
Ellis Case Study (No. 8) Finding
13 February 2015
The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has handed down its findings in relation to Case Study 8 – the John Ellis experience of the Towards Healing process and ensuing litigation.
The lengthy report made 34 findings following the three weeks of public hearings in Sydney during March 2014.
The Commission found the Archdiocese of Sydney had fundamentally failed Mr Ellis in its conduct of the Towards Healing process and did not act fairly from a Christian point of view in the conduct of the litigation against Mr Ellis.
Another finding 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 Commission also noted in many of the findings the failures outlined had been acknowledged by those involved in the process during their evidence to the Commission and in a review process instigated by the Church and Mr Ellis.
Commenting on the findings the Archbishop of Sydney, Most Rev Anthony Fisher OP the Catholic Church has been and will continue to be fully transparent and cooperate fully with the Royal Commission.
Archbishop Anthony said;”People, myself included, have been shocked and ashamed by what they have seen and read about sexual abuse. As a Church we must be completely transparent and repentant, genuinely sorry and determined to improve.
“I have heard the evidence and I have read the reports. We cannot undo the past but we can learn from our mistakes and I believe we are doing that. Now we need to put into place everything we can to make sure this doesn’t happen again.
“I said when I became Archbishop of Sydney that child abuse in the Catholic Church has been a scourge and no one is served, not the least survivors, by creating mythologies about child abuse. There are no glib explanations or simplistic solutions. The Church certainly can do better and I continue my commitment to giving a lead.
“I think the Royal Commission will help us do so in very practical terms, for example we now need to look at redress schemes as well as the ongoing needs of victims”, Archbishop Anthony said.
Full report on the Case Study plus comments here
Royal Commission – Ellis Case Study Findings
Truth, Justice and Healing Council Submissions Response
Report from Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney
Report from TJHC on Ellis Case Study
- The Archdiocese of Sydney's Detailed Review of the Ellis Case Study
The Archdiocese of Sydney’s Detailed Review of the Ellis Case Study
14 September 2015
1. Following His Grace’s installation in November 2015, Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP asked the Archdiocese to conduct a review of its processes and procedures for responding to claims of child sexual abuse.
2. This review has included conducting a detailed review of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse’s Report of Case Study 8 regarding Mr John Ellis’ experience of the Towards Healing Process and Civil Litigation (Ellis Case Study Report).
3. The Archdiocese accepts the criticisms regarding its response, and that of the Professional Standards Office (NSW), to Mr Ellis. In particular, the Archdiocese accepts that it failed Mr Ellis in responding to his Towards Healing complaint andthat in defending litigation brought by Mr Ellis, it did not adequately take account of Mr Ellis’ pastoral and other needs as a victim of child sexual abuse.
4. On the last day of the Ellis Case Study, Cardinal Pell apologised to Mr Ellis. He said: “As former archbishop and speaking personally, I would want to say to Mr Ellis that we failed in many ways, some ways inadvertently, in our moral and pastoral responsibilities to him. I want to acknowledge his suffering and the impact of this terrible affair on his life. As the then archbishop, I have to take ultimate responsibility, and this I do…I want publicly to say sorry to him for the hurt caused him by the mistakes made and admitted by me and some of my archdiocesan personnel during the course of the Towards Healing process and litigation”.
5. The Archdiocese repeats Cardinal Pell’s apology to Mr Ellis. Lessons have been learned by the Archdiocese since Mr Ellis’ matter was litigated and significant changes have been effected to ensure that the mistakes Cardinal Pell referred to in his apology will not occur again.
6. Following the conclusion of Mr Ellis’ litigation, the Archdiocese sought to respond to Mr Ellis more compassionately.
Cardinal Pell and Monsignor Usher (appointed Chancellor in 2005) met pastorally with Mr Ellis and Mr Ellis was provided, in accordance with practices established by Cardinal Pell, with significant financial assistance. It has offered ongoing counselling to Mr Ellis. The Archdiocesehopes that it has been able to bring Mr Ellis some measure of healing.
7. In addition to seeking to assist Mr Ellis following the conclusion of his litigation, under the leadership of Cardinal Pell, the Archdiocese also sought to improve how it responded to victims of abuse generally both in pastoral processes such as Towards Healing and in litigation building on learnings from the Ellis matter.
8. The Ellis Case Study Report acknowledged that the Archdiocese ultimately responded compassionately to Mr Ellis. It also acknowledged the improvements made by the Archdiocese in its response to Towards Healing complaints, largely as a result of the appointment of Monsignor John Usher as Chancellor by Cardinal Pell.
9. Since the Ellis litigation concluded in 2009, the Archdiocese’ s approach to litigation of abuse claims has also changed significantly reflecting learnings from the Ellis case and in particular that even in the context of litigation, the Archdiocese has pastoral responsibilities to victims. The Ellis Case Study Report acknowledged the submission by the Church parties that the Archdiocese’s current practice is to respond to questions about the proper defendant by providing plaintiffs with information about which entity or person was responsible at the relevant time for the appointment and supervision of a person accused of sexual abuse and that damages awards will be paid through insurance or otherwise.
10. The Archdiocese is continuing to work to improve its response to victims of abuse to reflect that helping victims is the Archdiocese’s priority.
The Archdiocese of Sydney’s response to each finding of the Ellis Case Study report can be found on the Archdiocese’s website at:Response by the Archdiocese of Sydney to the Ellis Case Study findings
- Response by the Archdiocese of Sydney to the findings in the Royal Commission’s Report of Case Study No 8, January 2015
Response by the Archdiocese of Sydney to the findings in the Royal Commission’s Report of Case Study No 8, January 2015
14 September 2015
|No.||Commission’s Report||Archdiocese’s response|
|“Cardinal Pell relied upon Mr Davoren to properly apply the procedures in Towards Healing. He then followed Mr Davoren’s advice, assuming that such procedures had been followed. After receiving a copy of Mr Eccleston’s report, Cardinal Pell became aware that such reliance was misplaced.”||The Archdiocese accepts this finding. In evidence, Cardinal Pell confirmed to the Commission that this was the case.|
|“Cardinal Pell’s letter to Mr Ellis dated 23 December 2002 was contrary to the procedures in Towards Healing (2000), as an assessor should have been appointed under clauses 38.7, 39.3 and 40 of the protocol, regardless of the inability of Father Duggan to respond.”||The Archdiocese accepts this finding.|
“Between June 2002 and April 2003, Mr Davoren as Director of the Professional Standards Office NSW/ACT did not comply with the procedures in Towards Healing (2000) in the handling of Mr Ellis’ complaint by:
• not appointing a Contact Person to act as a support person for Mr Ellis after assisting with the making of the initial complaint (clause 35.4)
• not referring the complaint to an assessor (clauses 38.7, 39.3 and 40)
• poor case management, including not undertaking the process as quickly as possible, and poorly managing the question of Father Duggan’s lucidity (clauses 35.3.1 and 40.13)”
|The Archdiocese accepts the Commission’s criticisms of the response by the Professional Standards Office to Mr Ellis in 2002 and 2003.|
|In not complying with these procedures, Mr Davoren did not make a compassionate response his first priority, as required by the principles of Towards Healing (2000) (clause 17)|
|“Monsignor Rayner did not doubt that Mr Ellis was telling the truth and shortly after his meeting with Mr Ellis and Father Duggan – that is July or August 2003 – he advised at least Mr Salmon and Cardinal Pell of his belief.”||Cardinal Pell gave evidence that while he had no recollection of that discussion, he did not dispute Monsignor Rayner’s evidence.|
|“Mr Salmon acted inconsistently with Towards Healing (2000) (clause 41.3) by not seeking Mr Ellis’s consent to the appointment of Mr Brazil as Facilitator.”||The Archdiocese accepts the criticisms of the Professional Standards Office’s response to Mr Ellis in 2002 and 2003.|
|“In other respects, Mr Salmon actively and properly managed Mr Ellis’s complaint in that he assisted in the organisation of the medical assessment of Father Duggan; the appointment of an assessor; the appointment of a Contact Person, namely Mr Bill Johnson; arranged counselling for Mr Ellis; and appointed a Facilitator.”||The Archdiocese accepts this finding in relation to the positive assistance the Professional Standards Office provided in its response to Mr Ellis.|
|“The determination of the figure of $25,000 had no reference to the needs of Mr Ellis as required by clause 41.1. Accordingly, the process by which it was determined was not consistent with Towards Healing (2000).”||The Archdiocese accepts this finding.|
|“We accept Cardinal Pell’s evidence that having “reflected on the course of the litigation”, several steps taken in the course of the litigation now cause him “some concern” as a priest. One of those steps was that the Archdiocese should have responded positively to Mr Ellis’s request for assistance in finding a spiritual director.”||The Archdiocese accepts this finding which reflects Cardinal Pell’s evidence.|
“Cardinal Pell was involved in the following significant steps during Mr Ellis’s Towards Healing process. Cardinal Pell:
• read Mr Ellis’ complaint on 7 June 2002
• formed the view that it was a plainly serious complaint
• discussed Mr Ellis’ Towards Healing complaint with Mr Davoren
• approved of a meeting between Father Duggan and Mr Ellis is Father Duggan could participate
• sought Mr Davoren’s advice on Mr Ellis wanting to meet with Father Duggan despite his dementia
• included Mr Ellis’s complaint as part of the agenda for a bishop’s meeting
• discussed the complaint at the bishop’s meeting, which Cardinal Pell agreed was not the usual course in a Towards Healing matter
• sought a briefing from Mr Davoren in relation to a facilitation
• received and considered the advice from Mr Davoren regarding Mr Ellis’ case in December 2002
• formed his own view as to the status of the complaint in December 2002
• wrote a letter to Mr Ellis on 23 December 2002 stating that nothing further could be done for him by the Archdiocese of Sydney
• met with others to discuss the process when Mr Ellis was disappointed with the December 2002 letter
• considered and approved the medical assessment of Father Duggan
• was aware of the medical assessment of Father Duggan which confirmed that Father Duggan lacked capacity
• considered and approved a meeting between Mr Ellis and Father Duggan notwithstanding that Father Duggan had dementia
• was aware that a meeting had taken place between Father Duggan and Mr Ellis
• approved the appointment of Mr Eccleston as the assessor
• read Mr Eccleston’s report
• appointed Mr Brazil as the Facilitator
• appointed Monsignor Rayner to represent the Church Authority during the facilitation and was aware that he subsequently did so
• knew Monsignor Rayner believed that Mr Ellis had been abused by Father Duggan
• knew that the facilitation had occurred “
|The Archdiocese accepts that Cardinal Pell was involved in the key decisions made in relation to the Towards Healing response to Mr Ellis.|
|“We are not satisfied that Cardinal Pell approved the amounts offered to Mr Ellis.”||The Archdiocese accepts this finding.|
|“We are satisfied that Cardinal Pell was told of the amounts offered and the $100,000 proposed by Mr Ellis by 17 September 2004 at the latest. We accept that Cardinal Pell does not have a current recollection of those matters.”||The Archdiocese accepts this finding.|
“The Archdiocese of Sydney fundamentally failed Mr Ellis in its conduct of the Towards Healing process by not complying with clause 19 of Towards Healing (2000) and not giving him such assistance as was demanded by justice and compassion, including:
• not sufficiently referring to or responding to his needs in determining the amount of reparation (clause 41.1 of Towards Healing (2000))
• not providing Mr Ellis with a spiritual director, when that was plainly one of his needs.”
|The Archdiocese accepts this finding. Cardinal Pell gave evidence that there was a substantial failing of the Towards Healing process in Mr Ellis’ case.|
“All failures identified by Mr Landa were serious and substantial failures, including: The failure to ‘case manage’ the complaint in relation to:
• the failure to appoint a Contact Person in the terms required by Towards Healing (2000) (Clause 36)
• the failure to provide Mr Ellis with a copy of the protocol at an appropriate or timely date
• the failure to appoint an assessor for 12 months
• the poor management of the issues surrounding Father Duggan’s lucidity
• The extensive delay in concluding the complaint and all of the matters above.”
|The Archdiocese accepts this finding.|
“We agree with the Interim National Review Panel’s recommendations in relation to Mr Landa’s report, including:
• Mr Landa was justified in his findings as to the failure to observe the required processes under Towards Healing. Fundamental to the processes under Towards Healing are justice and compassion for victims, and transparency through the failure to refer the matter to the Contact Person and the consequent absence of an explanation to Mr Ellis of the processes for addressing the complaint. There was also an absence of justice for Mr Ellis through the extensive delays in undertaking the required process.
• Mr Landa was justified in finding that the issue of Father Duggan’s lucidity was poorly managed. A medical assessment of Father Duggan should have occurred once it became clear that his mental state was impaired, which, in this case should have been readily apparent shortly after the receipt of the complaint.
• It was necessary for the review by Mr Landa to consider whether the outcome was vitiated by the failures of process. Mr Landa was justified in finding that the earlier failures of processes created in Mr Ellis a mistrust of the process of the facilitation, which having had an appropriate process, was not vitiated by the earlier failures of process.
• The Panel agreed with the recommendation of Mr Landa that the complaint should have been case managed. Case management would have helped to ensure that there were no unreasonable delays in the implementation of the process.”
|The Archdiocese accepts this finding.|
|“Cardinal Pell accepted the advice of Corrs Chambers Westgarth to vigorously defend the claim brought by Mr Ellis.”||The Archdiocese accepts this finding.|
|“A major part of Cardinal Pell’s decision to accept the advice of Corrs Chambers Westgarth to vigorously defend the claim brought by Mr Ellis was his conviction that Mr Ellis was seeking ‘exorbitant damages’ of millions of dollars.”||The Archdiocese accepts this finding.|
|“Another reason Cardinal Pell decided to accept the advice of Corrs Chambers Westgarth to vigorously defend the claim brought by Mr Ellis was to encourage other prospective plaintiffs not to litigate claims of child sexual abuse against the Church.”||The Archdiocese accepts this finding.|
|“Cardinal Pell accepted the advice of Corrs Chambers Westgarth at the outset of the litigation in September 2004 that mediation was no longer a viable option and that an approach from Mr Ellis’s lawyers to mediate should be rejected.”||The Archdiocese accepts this finding.|
|“Cardinal Pell accepted the advice of Corrs Chambers Westgarth to reject the offer of compromise put forward by Mr Ellis in December 2004 and not make a counteroffer.”||The Archdiocese accepts this finding.|
|“We agree with Cardinal Pell’s ultimate opinion that neither the decision of Mr Ellis and his legal advisers to sue the Trustees and Cardinal Pell, nor their decision to appeal the decision of the New South Wales Court of Appeal to the High Court, was unreasonable or lacked judgment.”||The Archdiocese accepts this finding.|
|“Whether or not specific instructions were sought before the Notice Disputing Facts was served, the dispute of the fact of Mr Ellis’ abuse was consistent with the general instructions of the Trustees and the Archbishop to defend the case vigorously.”||The Archdiocese accepts this finding.|
|“Instead of disputing that Mr Ellis had been abused, it was open to the Trustees and the Archbishop to admit the fact of Mr Ellis’ abuse and defend the case on other grounds.”||The Archdiocese accepts this finding.|
|“Cardinal Pell accepted the advice of Corrs Chambers Westgarth in June 2005 to continue to dispute the fact that Mr Ellis had been abused.”||The Archdiocese accepts this finding.|
“The Archdiocese wrongly concluded that it had never accepted that Father Duggan had abused Mr Ellis, either at law or under Towards Healing, and that this would have been made clear to Mr Ellis at his facilitation. This conclusion allowed Cardinal Pell to instruct Corrs Chambers Westgarth to maintain the non-admission of Mr Ellis’s abuse which Corrs Chambers Westgarth had advised was in the Church’s interests in the litigation. We are satisfied that he Archdiocese contrived this outcome by relying solely on its understanding of Mr Salmon’s comments in circumstances where:
• The Archdiocese was aware that the Church –appointed assessor had found, on the balance of probabilities, that Mr Ellis had been abused as alleged
• Under Towards Healing a complaint will only proceed to facilitation if the Church Authority has accepted that the abuse occurred
• Mr Salmon had not attended Mr Ellis’ facilitation and was not part of the Archdiocese
• Mgr Rayner and Mr Brazil who attended Mr Ellis’ facilitation, had not been consulted.
|The Archdiocese accepts that in circumstances where Monsignor Rayner believed Mr Ellis, it should not have disputed the fact of the child sexual abuse.|
|“The Facilitator of Mr Ellis’ Towards Healing facilitation took notes which were available to the Archdiocese and which made it clear that Monsignor Rayner, who represented the Archdiocese at the facilitation, had accepted that Father Duggan had abused Mr Ellis.”||The Archdiocese accepts this finding.|
|“Cardinal Pell was aware of, and generally agreed with, the advice of Corrs Chambers Westgarth that the Church’s lawyers should not help Mr Ellis identify a suitable defendant.”||The Archdiocese accepts this finding.|
|“The Archdiocese prepared questions and answers about Mr Ellis’ litigation, which were provided to a spokesperson for the Archdiocese and which included an answer that completely mischaracterised Mr Ellis’ experience of Towards Healing.”||The Archdiocese accepts this finding and comments that the content of the notes were never used or made public by any person on behalf of the Archdiocese.|
|“Cardinal Pell’s view, which was shared by everyone he spoke to, was that the evidence of SA significantly strengthened Mr Ellis’ legal case. However, during the litigation neither he nor anyone else in the Archdiocese reconsidered whether to dispute the fact of Mr Ellis’ abuse.”||The Archdiocese accepts this finding. Cardinal Pell acknowledged in his statement that 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 child sexual abuse.|
|“Cardinal Pell accepted the advice of Corrs Chambers Westgarth to refuse a further offer by Mr Ellis to mediate after Acting Justice Patten’s decision was handed down in February 2006.”||The Archdiocese accepts this finding.|
|“On Cardinal Pell’s instructions, Monsignor Usher forwarded a memorandum prepared by Corrs Chambers Westgarth after the Court of Appeals’ decision to Metropolitan Archbishops of Australia and the Bishops of NSW and ACT.”||The Archdiocese accepts this finding.|
|“Cardinal Pell had decided not to pursue costs against Mr Ellis by May 2008. Monsignor Usher told Mr Ellis that costs would not be pursued against him in August 2008; however this was not confirmed in writing until August 2009.”||The Archdiocese accepts this finding.|
|“We agree with Cardinal Pell’s evidence that ‘we’, which we take to be 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 Archdiocese accepts this finding which mirrors Cardinal Pell’s statement.|
“The Archdiocese failed to conduct the litigation with Mr Ellis in a manner that adequately took account of his pastoral and other needs as victim of sexual abuse by:
(a) rejecting the first offer of mediation
(b) not making a counteroffer after receiving a written offer from Mr Ellis
(c) wrongly concluding that the Archdiocese had never accepted that Mr Ellis had been abused by Father Duggan, either at law or under Towards Healing, and that this would have been made clear to Mr Ellis at his facilitation
(d) instructing its lawyers in June 2005 to continue not to admit the fact of Mr Ellis’ abuse because of legal advice that this suited its interests in the litigation, in circumstances where:
(i) these instructions allowed Mr Ellis to be cross-examined and challenged as to whether the abuse occurred, in circumstances which were harmful and painful to him
(ii) it was not necessary to dispute the fact of Mr Ellis’ abuse in order to properly test whether an extension of the limitation period should be granted or whether the trustees were liable for Mr Ellis’ abuse
(e) not instructing its lawyers that Cardinal Pell thought SA’s affidavit strengthened Mr Ellis’ case and that the Archdiocese should reconsider whether to continue its non-admission of the fact of Mr Ellis’ abuse;
(f) maintaining the non-admission of the allegation of Mr Ellis’ abuse after the affidavit of SA and the account given by Mrs Penton were available
(g) rejecting an offer to mediate after Acting Justice Pattern’s decision in February 2006
(h) taking too long to resolve the issue of recovery of costs from Mr Ellis
(i) employing the measures set out in subparagraphs (a) to (h) above, which were disproportionate to the objective and psychological state of Mr Ellis.”
|The Archdiocese accepts this finding which mirrors Cardinal Pell’s statement.|
Professional Standards Office NSW/ACT
Professional Standards Office NSW/ACT
In Australia, pursuant to the protocols of the document Towards Healing, there is a National Committee for Professional Standards established by the Catholic bishops and leaders of religious institutes to oversee the development of policy, principles and procedures in responding to Church-related abuse complaints.
As well, under Towards Healing, each State has a Director of Professional Standards to advise and assist in matters concerning professional standards and to appoint suitable persons to act as contact persons, support persons, assessors, facilitators and reviewers of the process.
The role of the Professional Standards Office NSW/ACT is to implement the principles and the procedures as outlined in Towards Healing in responding to complaints of abuse against personnel of the Catholic Church in Australia.
What happens when you make a complaint?
To make a complaint, please phone the toll-free complaints line on 1300 36 99 77. This number is accessible from anywhere in Australia.
A contact person will be appointed to meet with you. It is their role to explain the process and to assist you to complete a formal statement of complaint.
The Towards Healing process is not a legal one. The main purpose of Towards Healing is to try to assist those who have experienced abuse to find healing. Should people wish to take their complaints to the police or other civil authorities, they are strongly urged to do so.
If you choose to proceed under Towards Healing then an independent investigative process may occur. In some cases the investigative part of the process may not prove necessary. In either case, an outcome will be determined.
Responses will vary according to particular circumstances and may include the provision of an apology on behalf of the Church, counselling services or the payment of counselling costs. Financial assistance or reparation may also be paid to victims of a criminal offence or civil wrong, even though the Church is not legally liable.
As the process unfolds, you will be regularly consulted.
For complete details of the process, please refer to the full Towards Healing document. You can obtain this by contacting our office or visiting the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference website
How to Contact Us
For more information, please contact:
Professional Standards Office NSW/ACT
Phone: (02) 9287 1542
Fax: (02) 9287 1569
Address: Level 12, 133 Liverpool Street, Sydney 2000
The Ellis Decision - a Re-statement of the Law
The Ellis Decision – a Re-statement of the Law
There has been a great deal of attention given to the case of John Ellis who was sexually abused when an altar boy from 1974 to 1979.
Mr Ellis sued the offending priest along with Cardinal George Pell and the Trustees of the Roman Catholic Church for the Archdiocese of Sydney.
His action was unsuccessful.
Many have either misunderstood the court decision or been consistently misled by those who have encouraged reporting the “Ellis defence” or “Catholic Church creates legal shield” . As it has been extremely difficult to have the facts put into the public domain they are summarised here:
- There is no such thing as the “Ellis defence”. The Ellis decision did not create new law. It did not create a shield to protect church parties from legal action. Church parties can and have been sued.
- After Mr Ellis lost his court case, he received several hundred thousand dollars in financial assistance from the Archdiocese. In addition, the body corporate of the Archdiocese did not require Mr Ellis to pay its costs of the case – even though the court had ordered Mr Ellis to do so.
- The suggestion that the Church cannot be sued by victims of sexual abuse is incorrect.
- Church officials and Church entities responsible for abuse in the Church either directly or by their negligence can be and are sued.
- Ellis stands for nothing more than the commonsense proposition that you cannot be liable for wrong doing of others unless you are directly or indirectly responsible for supervising their conduct.
- The Archdiocese of Sydney has not organised its affairs to avoid its responsibilities to victims.
- The Catholic Church is not like a corporation with one basic structure for its activities.
- Where liability or potential liability is clear the Archdiocese accepts responsibility and seeks to resolve the complaint.
- The Church is strongly committed to helping victims of abuse and where responsibility is clear, the Archdiocese of Sydney seeks to resolve claims out of court.
- Most importantly, the Archdiocese of Sydney is committed to ensuring victims are treated justly and with compassion and respect.
The Ellis Case
John Ellis was abused when he was an altar boy from 1974 to 1979 by Father Aidan Duggan, the assistant priest at the Bass Hill Parish of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney.
In 2004, Mr Ellis sued Father Duggan, Cardinal George Pell in his capacity as Archbishop for and on behalf of the Archdiocese of Sydney, and the body corporate, The Trustees of the Roman Catholic Church for the Archdiocese of Sydney established under the Roman Catholic Church Trust Property Act 1936 (NSW), to hold property on trust for the diocese and its parishes.
Later in 2004 Father Duggan died.
The trial judge in the Supreme Court initially found that the Trustees could be sued by Mr Ellis in relation to the abuse, and granted him an extension of time to allow him to pursue his claim against them. The judge also held that as Cardinal Pell was not the Archbishop of Sydney at the time of the abuse, he could not be responsible for the abuse, and the court dismissed the claim against him. Both the body corporate and Mr Ellis appealed the decision.
In its appeal, the body corporate accepted that the abuse had occurred, but in its limited functions meant that it did not control and was not responsible for Fr Duggan’s conduct. The Court of Appeal found that neither Cardinal Pell nor the body corporate could be held liable for Father Duggan’s criminal conduct.
In 2007, Mr Ellis sought leave to appeal to the High Court, which was not granted.
Although Mr Ellis’s court action was unsuccessful, the Archdiocese of Sydney took responsibility for his abuse, and he has since received several hundred thousand dollars in financial assistance.
While the Court found that the body corporate was not responsible for the assistant priest, it did not set up a so-called “Ellis defence” or any new law. This decision is consistent with the longstanding rule of law that you cannot be liable for the criminal actions of others unless you are directly or indirectly responsible for supervising their conduct, and there has been negligence or other actionable conduct.
The Church Takes Responsibility
Importantly, through the Melbourne Response and Towards Healing, the Church accepts responsibility where abuse has taken place. Because the Church is committed to helping victims of abuse, where responsibility is clear, it seeks to settle claims.
The Church has not deliberately sought to structure its affairs and does not use the legal structure of its property trust to protect its assets from victims. Instead, the Church has set up mechanisms to ensure that victims are treated justly and that compensation or reparation is able to be[paid to victims. This is funded by insurance and from the assets of the particular diocese or religious congregation.
The Melbourne Response offers compensation up to a cap of $75,000, which is $20,000 higher than victims of crime can be awarded under Victorian law, and ongoing counselling and treatment which is not capped. There is no cap on reparation through Towards Healing.
All victims have the right not to proceed through Melbourne Response or Towards Healing but instead to issue legal proceedings. In those circumstances, the process will, of course, be more legalistic and less pastoral. This is because civil litigation is not centred on restorative justice but rather on a plaintiff who is seeking monetary compensation from a defendant. However, even in these circumstances the Church’s preference is always to resolve the claim through mediation, rather than requiring a victim to prove their case in court.
For More information on Towards Healing
Phone: 1300 369 977
Towards Healing document (click here)
NSW Cunneen Inquiry
NSW Cunneen Inquiry
The Special Commission of Inquiry into matters relating to the police investigation of certain child sexual abuse allegations in the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle
The Special Commission of Inquiry into matters relating to the police investigation of certain child sexual abuse allegations in the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle concluded on 30 May 2014.
Visit the Department of Premier and Cabinet website to view the published documents of the inquiry or download a copy of the the three volumes of the report:
NSW Cunneen Inquiry
NSW Inquiry into Sexual Abuse Concludes Public Hearings in Sydney
10 September 2013
The NSW government special inquiry into sexual abuse in the Newcastle Hunter region concluded its public hearings in Sydney yesterday with two senior Catholic priests giving testimony.
The Chancellor of the Archdiocese of Sydney, Msgr John Usher clarified a number of points in a statutory declaration provided earlier to the inquiry.
This included details of the church’s and other institutions historic attitude to paedophilia how he treated priests alleged to have sexually abused children.
Msgr Usher said in the 1980’s there was still an attitude in the church and other institutions that paedophiles could be cured with “therapy”. He said the church could not believe clergy could be guilty of such behaviour however he said he spoke to many people to educate himself on the subject-“a steep learning curve”-and soon realised paedophiles could not be cured and that they had committed terrible crimes.
Also attending the inquiry was the general secretary of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Fr Brian Lucas, who unlike Msgr Usher, was recalled to provide earlier evidence following his appearance in Newcastle in July.
The inquiry before Margaret Cunneen SC is looking into how church leaders and police handled child sexual abuse allegations against two Hunter Valley priests, Denis McAlinden and James Fletcher.
Msgr Usher told the inquiry whenever he met with priests alleged to have abused children he would soon after write a file note of the conversation and when he spoke with victims he would try to convince them to report their complaint to the police.
He said he recalled only meeting one priest with Fr Lucas and that he recalled he had only ever dealt directly with two paedophile priests or brothers who admitted their crimes but had not been reported to the police.He subsequently reported the men to police himself.
The inquiry’s findings are expected to be delivered in February next year
Useful documents and links
Useful Documents and Links
Statements from the Archdiocese
- STATEMENT FROM MOST REV. ANTHONY FISHER OP ARCHBISHOP OF SYDNEY (15 Dec 2017)
- Statement – New Child Protection Office Part of Archdiocese of Sydney Review ( September 2015) (PDF)
- Statement from Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP regarding events in relation to the Royal Commission hearings (May 2015) (PDF)
- Statement from Cardinal Pell from Vatican City (May 2015) (PDF)
- Statement from Cardinal Pell (May 2015) (PDF)
- Sowing in Tears: Lenten Pastoral Letter of the Bishops of New South Wales (March 2013) (PDF)
- Statement on the announcement of a Royal Commission (November 2012) (PDF)
- Statement from Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (November 2012) (PDF)
- Untrue and Serious Misunderstanding of Legal Proceedings (May 2012) (PDF)
- Cardinal Pell Welcomes Revised Vatican Guidelines for Sexually Abused (July 2010) (PDF)
- Catholic Church Not Paid Bail for Accused Priest (August 2009) (PDF)
- Statement on the Report of the Commission Into Child Abuse in Ireland (May 2009) (PDF)
- Sexual Abuse (June 2002) (PDF)
- Interview Cardinal Pell With Geoff Thompson of ABC For Corners in Rome (July 2012) (PDF)
- Cardinal Pell’s Media Conference Following Announcement of the Royal Commission November 2012
- HE Statement (13 December 2015) (PDF)
- Statement from the Office of Cardinal Pell’s Office Rome (11 December 2015) (PDF)
- Cardinal George Pell Archbishops Bishops Statement (3 June 2015) (PDF)
- Statement of Archbishop Denis Hart (1 June 2015) (PDF)
- Statement from Spokesperson for Cardinal George Pell 2 (May 2015) (PDF)
- Statement from Spokesperson for Cardinal George Pell 1 (May 2015) (PDF)
- Church Fires Back at Police on Abuse (June 2013) (PDF)
- Church Backed by Top Cop (June 2013) (PDF)
- Get the Facts on Abuse Cases (June 2013) (PDF)
- Pell, Hart Were Leaders in Addressing Child Sex Abuse (June 2013) (PDF)
- The Church Takes Abuse Claims Very Seriously (September 2012) (PDF)
- Cardinal Rejects Smear (March 2013) (PDF)
- Apology to Cardinal George Pell (March 2013)
- Dr Paul Collins’ Apology to Cardinal Pell (March 2013) (PDF)
- My apologetics Paul Collins apology (March 2013)
- My apologetics Barney Zwartz (March 2013)
- Cardinal Pell Should Sue for Libel (March 2013)
- The smearing of Cardinal Pell (November 2012)
Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry
- Statement from His Eminence Cardinal George Pell on the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry (28 May 2013) (PDF)
- Cardinal Pell’s Statement on the release of the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry report (Sydney 13 November 2013) (PDF)
- Archbishop Denis Hart’s statement on the release of the Victorian Parliamentary Inquiry report (Melbourne 13 November 2013) (PDF)
- Cardinal Pell’s Submission: