Solidarity Justice

The Archdiocese of Sydney's Detailed Review of the Ellis Case Study

Catholic Communications
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: