The Catholic Church has apologised for "legally abusing" a sexual abuse victim who lost a landmark compensation case after the church argued it could not be sued.
Asked for $750,000 in compensation for the abuse of John Ellis, the church instead spent almost exactly that sum "vigorously defending" the case, and later pursued him for those costs. Instead of giving him $750,000, it sought $755,000 from him.
Mr Ellis reveals correspondence between him and the church in a submission to the Victorian inquiry into how the churches handled sexual abuse. His evidence, posted on the parliamentary inquiry's website on Wednesday, is a reply to Sydney Archbishop Cardinal George Pell's evidence last month.
Mr Ellis says the cardinal provided "false and misleading" testimony to the inquiry about his case.
In the Ellis case, the NSW Court of Appeal found in 2007 that neither the Sydney archdiocese trustees nor archbishop were liable for child sexual abuse by a priest. Asked to identify who should answer his claim, the archdiocese refused to do so, saying the person liable was the priest who abused him.
In his reply to Cardinal Pell, Mr Ellis says there "seems to have been recently a significant resurgence of the fiction" that the church's corporate entities are only concerned with property dealings.
He says the church is in a unique position because it can take all the benefits of corporate existence, yet disclaim the liabilities.
Mr Ellis says Cardinal Pell implies the church paid him informal compensation after the appeal, and waived its costs. But, far from offering him assistance, it pursued an order for $755,000 in costs for more than a year.
He says it later withdrew that demand, reimbursed some of his costs, including money he gave to other victims, and paid for regular therapy with a psychiatrist, and this assistance was "beneficial and appreciated".
But he had to approach the archdiocese with each request for help, which was often demeaning and embarrassing, and payments were sometimes delayed for more than six months.
In his evidence, Cardinal Pell said the Ellis case involved the common-sense proposition that you couldn't be responsible for the wrong-doing of others unless you were responsible for supervising them, and therefore Mr Ellis had sued the wrong people. He said the church had remitted Mr Ellis's costs and paid him about $500,000 in compensation.
Mr Ellis said pursuing costs compounded his trauma, and the church stopped only after a plea from his wife because of the effect on his mental health.
He said he had never been offered a lump-sum settlement or any compensation for abuse, apart from an original offer of $30,000 which was never paid.
The cardinal's apology is part of a 2009 letter from Sydney chancellor John Usher to Mr Ellis. Father Usher wrote that Cardinal Pell apologised that the archdiocese moved without explanation from an offer to negotiate to "vigorously defending" the case, and promised to do "all in his power to ensure that this sort of legal abuse is never repeated again".
Cardinal Pell's spokeswoman did not reply to requests for comment.