Church fought abuse claimants tooth and nail

Sydney Morning Herald

March 29, 2014

Catherine Armitage
Senior Writer

The now infamous case of the brilliant lawyer and sex abuse survivor John Ellis before the child sex abuse royal commission has laid bare for the first time not just the Sydney Catholic archdiocese’s wealth but the cold, dark heart of its handling of child sex abuse complaints.

The three-week hearing before Justice Peter McClellan has demonstrated in excruciating detail the exercise of power, against a vulnerable man, at the highest levels of the church and of the law in Sydney.

Cardinal George Pell, who on evidence before the commission called all the shots in the Ellis case, takes up a new job running the Vatican’s finances on Monday.

McClellan has instructed his people to secure the cardinal’s return to the witness box in Melbourne later in the year, when the commission will inquire into the ”Melbourne Response” set up by Pell in 1996 to deal with sex abuse complaints.

Until then we have learnt:

Accounts tendered in evidence sensationally revealed for the first time the financial position of what is likely Australia’s richest archdiocese. It is open for McClellan to conclude that it made low payouts to sex abuse victims because it chose to prioritise other uses, such as saving.

The archdiocese’s assets have nearly doubled since 2004, to over $1 billion at the end of 2013. While liabilities and expenses grew similarly, the net position is a healthy one: net assets grew from $103 million in 2000 to $192 million in 2013.

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