Father of ex-choir boy files civil case against Cardinal George Pell and Catholic church

Jul 15, 2022
Cardinal George Pell's convictions were quashed by the High Court of Australia in 2020. Source: Andy Brownbill/AP

The father of a former choirboy, who was allegedly sexually abused by Cardinal George Pell, has launched legal action against Pell and the Catholic Church, claiming he had suffered psychological injury after learning of his son’s alleged abuse.

In 2018, Pell was found guilty by a Country Court jury for abusing two teenage choirboys in the 1990s when he was the Archbishop of Melbourne.

During the trial, one of the former choirboys gave evidence alleging he and his friend were abused after Sunday mass by the church leader.

However,  the 81-year-old was acquitted in 2020 when the high court quashed the convictions in a unanimous decision allowing the cardinal-who has continuously maintained his innocence– to walk free.

 

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The second choirboy died in his 30s in 2014 from an accidental drug overdose and never made a complaint against Pell. But now, the man’s father has lodged a civil case in Victoria’s supreme court, seeking damages against the Catholic Archdiocese of Melbourne and Pell.

According to court documents, the man- who cannot be named for legal reasons- has suffered from chronic adjustment disorder and persistent complex bereavement disorder, with mixed anxiety and depression since finding out about his son’s sexual abuse allegations.

He is claiming general damages, special damages, and compensation for “past loss of earning capacity and past and future medical and like expenses”.

In an interview with The Age in 2019, the father revealed how his son became withdrawn as a teenager and began using drugs before he had a few stints in jail as an adult.

“Really, I do blame George Pell. I feel that he has taken my son away from me,” he said.

“And it’s not only me but it’s his sister and his mother. We’ve all missed out on him. Why? Why?”

Pell was once seen as the Pope’s right-hand man before the 2018 allegations emerged. Source: Instagram @ilglobonewspaper

During a brief hearing on Thursday, July 14, Justice Michael McDonald had asked the church’s lawyers whether they were going to rely on the “Ellis Defence”.

The so-called “Ellis Defence”, which prevents child sexual abuse victims from suing the Catholic Church, was abolished in Victoria in 2018.

It is currently unclear whether this defence can be used in cases brought by people who claim to be secondary victims, including families of the alleged victims.

The archdiocese’s barrister, Geraldine Gray, has told the court the church had not yet decided whether it would use the “Ellis Defence”.

“If the Ellis defence isn’t going to be taken, the proceedings would go ahead,” McDonald said.

Cardinal George Pell was Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic figure. He continues to maintain his innocence.

 

Sexual Harassment, Assault or Workplace issues: DISCLAIMER: If you are concerned about violence or misconduct impacting you, your family, friends or workplace, the numbers below may help. National Sexual Assault, Domestic Family Violence Counselling Service — 1800 737 732, Mensline Australia — 1300 789 978, Relationships Australia — 1300 364 277, BeyondBlue — 1300 224 636; Suicide Call Back Service — 1300 659 467; Headspace — 1800 650 890; Kids Helpline — 1800 551 800; Lifeline Australia — 13 11 14 for confidential support, advice and referral that will help you explore your options.

MENTAL HEALTH DISCLAIMER: If you or anyone you know needs help: Lifeline — 13 11 14; MensLine Australia — 1300 789 978; BeyondBlue — 1300 224 636; Suicide Call Back Service — 1300 659 467; Headspace — 1800 650 890; Kids Helpline — 1800 551 800

 

 

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