Published: 24 August 2012
Author: Ryan Carlisle Thomas
Can the Catholic Church be sued?
In my earlier blog on this site, I recently wrote about a letter sent by the Victorian Catholic Leaders to all Victorian Catholic Churches apologising yet again to victims of sexual abuse. I referred in that blog to the way in which the Sydney Archdiocese had dealt with a claim for childhood sexual abuse that had been brought against it.
On 20 August 2012, the Sydney Archdiocese, whose Archbishop is George Pell, one of the original defendants in the "Ellis" case, published its response to sexual abuse in the Catholic Weekly. In this response the Archdiocese proclaims that helping victims and ensuring that they are heard, believed and treated with compassion and respect is the Church's first priority. It it is so important to the Church that victims be heard and believed, why does the Church block victims' attempts to seek justice and have their day in court?
Further, why does the Church pretend that it does not use every technical legal defence at its disposal to ensure that victims will not be heard?
On 29 October 2009 in a story on ABC radio about the "Ellis" defence, Father Brian Lucas, General Secretary of the Australian Bishops' Conference (who recently also figured in the Four Corners program regarding the botched investigation into a priest who confessed to sexually abusing children) said "The suggestion that the Church can't be sued is simply not correct."
On 2 November 2009, I wrote to Father Lucas asking him to confirm that the Church would accept service of a writ in a claim of alleged sexual abuse by the notorious paedophile priest, Gerard Ridsdale, and I asked him to confirm that the Church would not rely on the defence that there was no legal entity that could be sued.
The silence has been deafening!