Cardinal George Pell believes the Catholic Church should be able to be sued in cases of child sexual abuse, the Royal Commission has heard, reports the ABC.
A public hearing of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse involving the Catholic Church opened in Sydney yesterday to examine allegations made by John Ellis, who failed in his attempt to sue the Church. He was abused by Fr Aidan Duggan in Sydney between 1974 and 1979.
In 2007, the New South Wales Appeals Court found the Church could not be held liable for the conduct of its priests, nor could it be sued, because it does not exist as a legal entity.
The case set a precedent that is now referred to as the 'Ellis defence' and is seen by many in the legal fraternity as a major barrier to people seeking compensation.
At yesterday's hearing, senior counsel Gail Furness used her opening address to read a statement relating to Cardinal Pell's upcoming evidence, referring to the liability of the Church in cases such as Mr Ellis's.
'In his statement to the royal commission the Cardinal says, and I quote: "Whatever position was taken by the lawyers during the litigation or by lawyers or individuals in the Archdiocese following the litigation, my own view is that the Church in Australia should be able to be sued in cases of this kind",' Ms Furness said.
Cardinal Pell is one of nine witnesses from the Church due to give evidence in the coming fortnight.
Ms Furness also detailed the abuse Mr Ellis experienced, his attempts to seek justice, the subsequent delays in the process, and criticism of the procedures. She has told the commission the manner in which the matter was conducted caused harm and suffering to Mr Ellis.