The national Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will today open its second hearing into the Catholic Church's handling of abuse claims, reports the ABC.
The commission's eighth public hearing will examine a landmark case that established what is known as the 'Ellis defence,' which suggests the Church is not liable for the criminal conduct of clergy.
The two-week hearing in Sydney will examine the case of John Ellis, a former altar boy whose claim of sexual abuse by Father Aidan Duggan in the 1970s was initially dealt with under the Church's Towards Healing process established in 1996. It will also examine the outcome of his subsequent lawsuit against the church.
Former Sydney Archbishop Cardinal George Pell will appear as a witness before moving to Rome at the end of the month to take up a new role overhauling the Vatican's finances, leading the newly created Secretariat for the Economy.
Cardinal Pell is one of eight witnesses who will give evidence, alongside other officials of the Catholic Archdiocese of Sydney and Mr Ellis, who is now a lawyer.
After making an initial complaint in 2002 through Towards Healing, in 2004 Mr Ellis sued his abuser, Father Duggan, who died later that year. He also sued Cardinal Pell, in his role as Archbishop of Sydney, and the property trust of the Archdiocese of Sydney.
The Church accepted the abuse occurred, but the New South Wales Court of Appeal found neither Cardinal Pell nor the trustees of the Church could be held liable. Mr Ellis's bid to appeal to the High Court was refused.
Royal Commission chief executive, Janette Dines, says the hearing will focus on the experiences of Mr Ellis.
NSW inquiry into Ellis case opens (The Herald Sun)