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John Andrew Ellis REDACTED - Royal Commission into ... · PDF file John Andrew Ellis REDACTED AUSTRALIA REDACTED By E-mail: [email protected] bened [email protected] His Holiness

May 24, 2020




  • John Andrew Ellis REDACTED


    By E-mail : [email protected] bened [email protected]

    His Holiness Pope Benedict XVI The Holy See 00120 Vatican City, ITALY

    Dear Holy Father

    Archdiocese of Sydney, Australia

    24 June 2008 Feast of St John

    the Baptist

    It is with much regret and distress that I have decided to write to you to seek your assistance and support towards the resolution of an ongoing matter affecting the relationship between myself and the Archdiocese of Sydney, and my participation in the life of the Church.

    I am a Catholic layman, resident in the Diocese of Broken Bay, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia.

    As a young man, I grew up with my family in the parish of Bass Hill, part of the Archdiocese of Sydney.

    I do not wish in this letter to go through the whole of my experience which has led to me writing this letter. It is very pa inful to write about. I will, rather, try to summarise the position as much as possible.

    The reason I am writing to you at this time is because I am aware that you will be visiting Sydney in the near future for World Youth Day 2008, and anticipate that during that time, you will have the opportunity to discuss pastoral matters with your brother, His Eminence Cardinal Pell A.C., D.Phil.(Oxon)., F.A.C.E.

    Over the period from 1975, when I was a 14 year old altar boy at Bass Hill Parish until 1987, I was repeatedly .. sexually abused by a Benedictine Monk, Father Aidan Duggan OSB who was by then working within the Sydney Archdiocese . I am aware of at least one other boy who was abused by Father Duggan.

    The effects of this on my life have been severe, but it was not until about 2001, when I was 40 years old that the effects began to become apparent. In the meantime, I had become a successful lawyer.


  • I approached the Sydney Archdiocese of the Church under its "Towards Healing" process in 2002. A report was finally produced in late 2003. I attach a copy. The report confirmed that the abuse had occurred.

    I had a meeting with representatives of the Archdiocese in June 2004. In the meantime, I had lost my position as a partner of a law firm and was unable to work because of severe psychiatric conditions and physical exhaustion. It is only now, 4 years later, that I have been able to resume work on a nearly full-time basis.

    I was told that no financial assistance or apology would be given unless I signed a legal release and certified that I had received legal advice. I then sought legal advice and was told that unless I commenced legal action immediately, I would be statutorily barred from bringing any claim.

    My lawyers wrote to the Archdiocese (copy attached) stating this, and seeking to resolve matters without the need for legal action. When no response was received, I commenced a legal claim in the civil courts of NSW in August 2004.

    I was then told by the Church's representative that I was excluded from Towards Healing and that I would not be able to meet with Cardinal Pell, as had been offered to me.

    The legal case went on for over 3 years. I was granted permission by the Supreme Court of NSW to proceed in March 2006. However, the Archdiocese appealed this decision to a higher Court, the Court of Appeal.

    That Court of Appeal ruled that the Archdiocese could not be held liable, as the legal entity it had set up (the Trustees of the Roman Catholic Church for the Archdiocese of Sydney) was not given specific responsibility for responding to claims arising from abuse by priests.

    [I understand on the advice of a Canon Lawyer that this is contrary to the requirements of Canon Law - Canon 113 of the 1983 code. It is also contrary to the situation in other dioceses - for example, the United States, the United Kingdom and Canada]

    This argument was raised by the Sydney Archdiocese only part-way through the case, but was vehemently pursued after that.

    Because I was unsuccessful in the Courts, I was ordered to pay the costs of the Archdiocese and Cardinal Pell. In mid 2007, the Archdiocese offered that if I did not seek to take a further appeal against the decision ruling that the Church had no liability, it and Cardinal Pell would forgive the costs.

    I was not able in conscience to do that. The decision that a diocese of the Catholic Church cannot in any circumstances be liable for harm done by its priests appeared to me to be contrary to morality and the Church's teachings, as well as legally wrong. The decision impacted not only on


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  • me, but on all other persons who had been harmed by the actions of a priest. I felt that I owed a responsibility to these other of God's children and members of your flock to have this issue fully tested and authoritatively ruled on .

    I therefore applied for permission to appeal the decision to the High Court of Australia . However, that application was refused in November 2007. The High Court is the ultimate court of appeal in Australia and hears very few cases. My case was not considered a suitable case for it to hear.

    The Archdiocese opposed my application, but was not called upon to speak in the Court. Its further costs of my application to the High Court would have been minimal.

    Immediately aher this, in December 2007, the Archdiocese began to take steps to recover from me its costs of the Court proceedings. It has told me that its total costs for defending the claim were more than $A755,000.

    The letter requested payment within one month. The lawyers for Cardinal Pell and the Archdiocese informed me that they had instructions f rom them to take formal enforcement action if the costs were not paid within that time.

    Because of the effects of the abuse, I have not been able to work between May 2004 and recently. My income is presently very substantially reduced and I have large debts. I am also still suffering severe mental health issues and have therapy twice a week.

    These matters were put to Cardinal Pell between December last year and May of this year. This was an enormously stressful process for me, as the consequence of the enforcement action would be that I would lose my house, and that my family including my wife, step-son, and 80 year old father-in-law would be homeless. I asked that this not be done.

    Eventually at the end of last month (28 May 2008), the Archdiocese's lawyers informed me that the costs would be deferred at this point in time. This appears to confirm that the instructions to enforce have not been withdrawn. I am therefore now in the position of being very fearful and anxious that the enormous liability will be imposed on me at some unknown time in the future.

    I humbly request that you make representations to His Eminence Cardinal Pell on my behalf, and on behalf of all victims of abuse by priests and other clergy. The important issues to me are :

    1. That the Archdiocese publicly commit to adopting (in word and deed) a compassionate, pastoral and supportive attitude to the victims of clergy abuse and eschewing technical legal defences.

    2. That the Archdiocese support civil law reform to identify its corporate body (the Trustees of the Roman Catholic Church for the Archdiocese of Sydney) as the entity responsible for such matters legally.


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    3. That the Cardinal, on behalf of the Archdiocese make a public apology for any abuse which has occurred in the past; for any failing by the Church in the past to have appeared to accept accountability for it and implement a compassionate, pastoral and just response; and for any actions by the Church which have appeared to deny the occurrence of, or minimise the impacts of, abuse.

    4. That the Cardinal meet with me personally to help restore my relationship with the Church and break down some of the barriers that are challenging my fa ith and trust in God and His body of fa ithful.

    In relation to this, one of the most hurtful , painful and difficult aspects of the Archdiocese and Cardinal Pell pursuing a legal defence through their lawyers was the depersonalisation of the whole matter and the fact that I was placed in a position of conflict with the Church rather than being embraced, respected, loved and supported by her. This has resulted in feelings of being marginalised and disengaged from the spiritual life of the Church. This is particularly painful as the Church looks forward to this time of celebration and grace associated with World Youth Day and your visit.

    5. That the threat looming over me of having my family's home taken from it be removed , by the Archdiocese and Cardinal Pell formally agreeing to forgive their cla ims for legal costs.

    I have reflected carefully and prayerfully before making th is approach to you, and have been guided to the conclusion that it is the appropriate course for me to take. I appeal to your wisdom and compassion, and humbly entreat you in your role as the shepherd and pastor of the fa ithfu l to use the blessing of your forthcoming visit to Sydney to address the matters I have raised with Cardinal Pell.

    I do appreciate that there are many demands on your time and your attention. However

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