The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse will this week host the next bout of a 12-year battle over whether the Catholic Church can be sued for damages under common law, with lawyer and victim John Ellis once again facing off against Cardinal George Pell.
In 2002, Cardinal Pell, as Archbishop of Sydney, wrote to Mr Ellis telling him the aged priest who had abused him for years was too old to deal with his complaint.
The Ellis case, which went to the High Court in 2007, has been a curse for victims seeking to sue the Catholic Church because it established in case law, in effect, that the trustees that hold the assets of a church diocese cannot be sued because they are not responsible for the diocese's activities.
In other words, the church lacks a corporate identity to sue.
Some of the most senior Catholics in Australia have been called to give evidence, starting this week, at the royal commission. Cardinal Pell is scheduled to appear last, which would likely put him in the witness stand on Monday week.
Even before the royal commission's senior counsel, Gail Furness, begins her opening address on Monday, the battle lines are clear. They are laid out in a statement on the Sydney archdiocese's website that has incensed Mr Ellis.
He said the statement ''contains significant factual inaccuracies, mis-states the law and is misleading,'' and some of it was ''slippery'' and ''immoral''.
The archdiocese states that people have either misunderstood the Ellis decision or been misled by the reporting of it. It says ''the Ellis decision did not create new law'' and did not create a shield to protect the church from legal action.
''Ellis stands for nothing more than the commonsense proposition that you cannot be liable for wrong doing of others unless you are directly or indirectly responsible for supervising their conduct,'' the statement says.
It says Mr Ellis received several hundred thousand dollars in financial assistance from the archdiocese, which did not require him to pay the $750,000-plus court costs, even though the court ordered him to pay.
In an email to Fairfax Media pre-dating the royal commission's decision to explore his case, Mr Ellis, who has acted for hundreds of victims of abuse by priests, strongly objected to these assertions.
He said the church did use the Ellis decision to shield its liability and no diocese in Australia had successfully been sued for the effects of sexual abuse of a child by a priest. He also said the costs in his case were waived only after the archdiocese had pursued him for them for two years.
If Cardinal Pell's appearance before the Victorian sex abuse inquiry is a guide, when he takes the stand at the royal commission he will pledge to keep striving to make things better.
Cardinal Pell set up one of the first systems in the world to respond to sex abuse victims' claims with the Melbourne Response in 1996. The average payout to victims through that scheme is $32,500. This has been compared with the typical cost to the church in the US of more than $1 million per sexual abuse victim.