A close associate of Cardinal George Pell has contradicted the former archbishop’s assertion that he was unaware of how much money abuse victim John Ellis was seeking from the church.
Monsignor Brian Rayner was chancellor and vicar-general of the archdiocese when Mr Ellis went through the internal church system of dealing with victims, Towards Healing.
Mr Ellis was abused for five years by priest Father Aidan Duggan at Bass Hill in Sydney, starting in 1974, when Mr Ellis was 13.
The monsignor, who represented the church authority in Towards Healing, told the royal commission into child sexual abuse on Monday he had told then-archbishop Dr Pell that Mr Ellis wanted $100,000 to cover counselling and accommodation.
“Anything to do with an amount of money, I would have to get the authorisation from the archbishop,” he said as he explained that he had received Dr Pell’s approval to make an initial $25,000 offer.
When asked specifically about the $100,000 figure, Mons Rayner replied: “Yes, he (Dr Pell) would have been told that.”
But the hearing last week heard Dr Pell had made a statement to the commission on February 24 in which he said he was unaware Mr Ellis had “in fact sought $100,000”.
The commission heard that a church meeting with Mr Ellis had ended without resolution after Mr Ellis refused to sign a deed of release for an offer of $30,000.
The monsignor said on Monday that when facilitation failed, he forwarded a letter from Mr Ellis’s solicitor, who proposed mediation, to Catholic Church Insurances lawyers Monahan + Rowell.
Patrick Monahan wrote back saying he unhesitatingly would strongly recommend mediation.
The archbishop referred the matter to Melbourne-based firm Corrs Chambers Westgarth, who rejected mediation as a viable option.
Mons Rayner said on Monday he always believed Mr Ellis had been abused and he only found out weeks ago that when the matter went to the Supreme Court the church had disputed the abuse.
He left his post in 2005 and was never called to give evidence in the Supreme Court cases that ensued.
Mons Rayner was also asked on Monday about an affidavit he signed in December 2004, stating that to the best of his knowledge “there are no official documents to record priests resident in the parish”.
He agreed with counsel assisting the commission Gail Furness SC it gave the impression there were no records showing Fr Duggan’s various appointments.
“If the affidavit is deceptive, I regret that,” Mons Rayner said.
He added that he was “sidelined” on the Ellis case after that because litigation was not his area of responsibility, but also because he had expressed his dissatisfaction when Corrs took over.
The hearing continues on Tuesday, when Mons Rayner will be cross-examined.