OMG I have been watching Cardinal Pell’s live evidence all day and seriously, he needs to get to confession. Lying his brain off and justifying everything in favour of the church.
I did want to stay out of these religion relation Royal Commission hearings but can not. AS a survivor of sexual abuse by the catholic church I dry reach listening to him.
UPDATE 26/03/14 The Cardinal had a second day in the hot seat and was no better trying to defend the indefensible
George Pell tells sex abuse royal commission case against John Ellis was unfair ‘from a Christian point of view’
Cardinal George Pell says that from a “Christian point of view”, the Church did not deal fairly with former altar boy and sex abuse victim John Ellis.
Mr Ellis was abused by a priest in the 1970s, but lost a legal battle in 2007 when the Court of Appeal ruled the Catholic Church was not an entity that could be sued.
Cardinal Pell, Australia’s most senior Catholic cleric, is giving evidence at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney.
He said although lawyers never acted improperly, he had “moral doubts” and believed the case was mishandled from a spiritual perspective.”Any reservations I might have about particular stands of our lawyers, I would not want to suggest that they did anything improper,” he told the hearing.
“But from my point of view, from a Christian point of view, leaving aside the legal dimension, I don’t think we did deal fairly.”
Cardinal Pell said that he endorsed the aggressive strategies of the church’s lawyers, who were instructed to “resist” Mr Ellis’s claim, despite the fact that he believed Mr Ellis.
“Part of that wording, ‘vigorously’ or ‘strenuously’, was, at least in my mind, an attempt to encourage people not to go into litigation,” Cardinal Pell told the hearing.
Counsel assisting the commission Gail Furness questioned the Cardinal’s stance.
“So by having a vigorous defence, that would show potential plaintiffs that they should think twice before litigating against the church?” she asked.
“That they should think clearly,” Cardinal Pell responded.
Cardinal Pell said victims should settle the matters outside court.
In a statement to the commission, Cardinal Pell apologised to Mr Ellis for the abuse committed by Father Aidan Duggan.
Cardinal Pell admitted endorsing a decision not to enter mediation at the time the legal action began, but now concedes that was a mistake.
“I could have. I regret that I didn’t. As a general rule, though, I handed over the carriage of the case to our legal advisers and I should have been more vigilant,” he said.
Before the case Mr Ellis asked for $100,000 but was offered $30,000.
The court costs far exceeded Mr Ellis’s original request for compensation.
The Cardinal said at the time the legal action commenced in 2004, he was mistaken about Mr Ellis.
“He presented so well. He’s such a senior lawyer; he was represented by two very high-profile lawyers,” Cardinal Pell said.
“I understood insufficiently just how wounded he was.
I understood insufficiently just how wounded he was.Cardinal George Pell
“We would never have run this case against many of the victims who came forward because they’re manifestly so wounded.
“That was not apparent to me at this stage.”
During the litigation, Cardinal Pell expressed concern to his colleagues about exacerbating the victim’s psychiatric condition.
He was today asked whether he was actually attempting to avoid bad publicity as a result of the case.
“That was always one of my concerns, yes, but it was not my first concern,” he said.
Cardinal Pell has denied being involved in the day-to-day running of the legal battle with Mr Ellis.
A second man came forward with a complaint about the priest during the litigation
Cardinal Pell admits that would have strengthened Mr Ellis’s case, but said he did not discuss it with the lawyers.
The hearing continues.
Cardinal George Pell says he was not involved in discussions on compensation payments
Cardinal George Pell has told a royal commission into child sexual abuse he was not involved in discussions about compensation for a victim who sued the Catholic Church and lost.
The former archbishop of Sydney, Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic, is giving evidence in front of a packed public gallery at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in Sydney.
Today he was questioned about his part in the Church’s legal battle with John Ellis, who was abused by Sydney priest Father Aidan Duggan in the 1970s.
The former altar boy lost his case in 2007, when the New South Wales Court of Appeal ruled the Church was not a legal entity that could be sued – the so-called Ellis defence.
Catholic officials have said Cardinal Pell knew about Mr Ellis’s compensation request, but say he instructed the Church’s lawyers to defend the case vigorously.
Last week Cardinal Pell’s private secretary, Dr Michael Casey, told the commission Cardinal Pell had directed the legal team to be aggressive in its cross-examination.
Today Cardinal Pell said the legal battle had been “hard fought, perhaps too well fought by our legal representatives”.
“I would now say, looking back, that these legal measures, although effective, were disproportionate to the objective and to the psychological state of Mr Ellis as I now better understand it,” he said in a statement tendered to the royal commission.
“I realise I should have exercised more regular and stringent oversight.”
But Cardinal Pell denied claims from the former chancellor of the Sydney Archdiocese that he was involved in discussions about compensation payments, particularly when Mr Ellis lost his job.
“[Claims that] I would agree to offer him $5,000 extra by way of compensation, I regard as grotesque,” he said.
There was a round of applause in the packed hearing room when Cardinal Pell was challenged to back up his statement that quite a number of abuse cases are never validated.
“You’ve said that in quite a number of cases, for example, in schools, the incidents are found not to be validated,” Counsel Assisting the Commission Gail Furness said.
“I call for the data that supports that evidence.”
Sceptical Vatican gave accused ‘benefit of the doubt’
Before turning to the Ellis case, the commission had questioned Cardinal Pell about the culture of the Church in the 1990s.
Cardinal Pell agreed that before the Towards Healing pastoral and redress scheme was established in the mid-1990s, some priests were moved between dioceses in the event of an abuse complaint.
“Unfortunately that was the case,” he said. “If that happened, it would be very much by way of exception.”
He told the hearing the Vatican took a “sceptical” approach to complaints of abuse and accused priests were given “the benefit of the doubt”.
I think there was more of an inclination to give the benefit of the doubt to the defendant, rather than listen seriously to the complaints.
Cardinal George Pell
“The attitude of some people at the Vatican was that if accusations were being made against priests, they were made exclusively or at least predominantly by enemies of the Church to make trouble and therefore they should be dealt with sceptically,” he said.
“I think there was more of an inclination to give the benefit of the doubt to the defendant rather than listen seriously to the complaints.”
Cardinal Pell also told the commission that sentiments similar to those in the Vatican were present among some in the Australian arm of the Church in the early 1990s.
“Not to anything like the same degree, I don’t think, but it is a little bit difficult to know what people think on these issues unless they are discussed directly or they are challenged on them,” Cardinal Pell said.
“I never heard – I think in many ways, the English-speaking world made a significant contribution to the universal church in this area.
“In dealing adequately with this, whatever the deficiencies, I think we were ahead of some countries.”
He said when he became Archbishop of Melbourne he “moved very vigorously no improve what was a chaotic situation” surrounding the handling of abuse claims.
Abuse survivors listen closely to Pell’s evidence
The walls outside the royal commission have been covered in placards from victim support groups, calling on Cardinal Pell to be accountable for his actions and detail his role in the Ellis legal proceedings.
Child abuse survivors said they would watch Cardinal Pell’s appearance with great interest.
Dr Cathy Kezelman, the president of the group Adults Surviving Child Abuse, said there needed to be some clarity around the issue.
“We’re all waiting to see what the archbishop’s role was in this case and there’s been conflicting evidence to date. What we know is that John Ellis suffered enormously through this,” she said.
“We had an internal church process that acknowledged he’d been abused and yet when he sought a civil claim that was brought into question.”
Care Leavers Australia Network chief executive Leonie Sheedy said her organisation was eagerly anticipating the Cardinal’s evidence.
“It’s so long overdue,” she said. “I feel so sad about what happened to John Ellis and all those other people who have tried to get justice for the crimes that were committed against them.
“They call it the Ellis defence, but it should be called the Pell defence.
“He’s going to go down in history as the person who denied people justice.”
After his testimony, Cardinal Pell is expected to leave Australia for Rome to take on a new senior role at the Vatican, which includes responsibility for preparing the Vatican’s annual budget, as well as financial planning and enhanced internal controls.
The hearing continues.