To: Prime Minister



The Ellis Defence is a legal technicality used by the Catholic Church to abrogate its financial responsibility for the abuse perpetrated by its clergy on parishioners and wards, including children in the church's care who were subjected to sexual abuse. As a result of this legal technicality, it is very difficult, and often impossible, for victims, who have been sexually abused by clergy within the Catholic church, to sue for and receive fair financial compensation for the trauma they have suffered.

The Ellis Defence is based on a ruling of the high court of Australia which found that the Catholic Church, as a whole, cannot be held legally (and thus financially) responsible for the actions of its priests who sexually abused children, because it is not incorporated as a single entity and there is no legal requirement for the church to do so. Put simply, when a Catholic priest commits sexual abuse, it does not happen in the "Catholic Church" because there is no such legal entity. It happens, instead, in one of the thousands of unincorporated parts of the church. Consequently, responsibility rests completely on members of that small part of the church, especially the perpetrator and those responsible for appointing or supervising him/her. Legal and financial responsibility for sexual abuse is completely limited to the parish, school, hospital or whatever is the unincorporated part in which it occurred. (

We implore you to introduce to the Parliament, as soon as possible, legislation to prohibit the Catholic Church and similar organisations from abrogating financial responsibility for the actions of its clergy when they have committed abuse.

Why is this important?

Do you think that it is OK for the Catholic Church to use a legal technicality to prevent those who have been sexually abused by Catholic priests from suing the church for fair financial compensation?

Under current law, someone who has been sexually abused by a Catholic priest can only sue the person/s directly responsible for the abuse, and/or the legal entity that the perpetrator works for (which is often the local parish). This is because the "Catholic church" is not one single legal entity, but made up of thousands of smaller, mostly asset poor, legal entities. The church's main assets are held in large property trusts which, according to a High Court ruling, are not financially responsible for the actions of clergy within the church.

In many cases the perpetrator of the abuse has died and/or the perpetrator or legal entity does not have sufficient funds to adequately compensate the individual, so the abuse victim receives little or no financial compensation.

The law needs to be changed to prevent this injustice.

How it will be delivered

Email signatures

Reasons for signing

  • I am a victim and after 3 years of legals. I received a pittance of a payout. If I did not accept it would go to federal court and if I lost I would have to pay costs. I could not go through the trauma of court. Legals were traumatic not going to court.
  • So people like Jennifer Herrick & other adult victims of powerful clergy may get financial justice. Pell agrees with this but church lawyers still use the Ellis Defence, as directed by Church Authorities .
  • For the universal and real justice.