“As a Church community, it is a cause of deep shame to us that some within the Church family whose very role has been to protect children, have been guilty of abuse. We acknowledge the evil. We offer profound regret and sincere apology. We will do everything we can to provide protection and healing to victims of this abuse.”
New Zealand Catholic Bishops, The Protection of Children
Abuse in the Catholic Church
Abuse can be sexual, physical or emotional. The Church takes reports of all forms of abuse seriously. Criminal sexual or physical abuse is a matter for the police to investigate. Where the abuse appears to be of a criminal nature we encourage complainants to take the matter to the police, and will support them in doing so. If the abuse is reported to the police, we will not protect the accused/offender from the processes of civil law nor hide the facts from those entitled to know them.
A provisional protocol for dealing with complaints of abuse was adopted by the bishops in 1993. In 1998 the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference and the Congregational Leaders of Aotearoa New Zealand published A Path to Healing, Te Houhanga Rongo. A Path to Healing has been revised several times to ensure it reflects best practice. The bishops are indebted to those who have come forward, and encourage others who have experienced abuse to do the same.
If the abuse is not of a criminal nature, the complaint can be dealt with according to the processes in A Path to Healing if that is the wish of the complainant.
National Office for Professional Standards
The bishops and congregational leaders established the National Office for Professional Standards (NOPS) to oversee the response to complaints of abuse. Virginia Noonan is the Director of the National Office for Professional Standards. The role of the National Office for Professional Standards includes oversight of all complaints from the time the complaint is made. If a review of the process is later requested this will be carried out by an independent person, not the National Office for Professional Standards.
The National Office for Professional Standards oversees the Safeguarding programme in each of the dioceses. This programme raises awareness of abuse, and identifies ways in which people can actively work together to create a safe environment in our Church communities. More information can be found at http://www.wn.catholic.org.nz/towards-a-culture-of-safeguarding/.
If you or someone you know has been abused by a Catholic priest or member of a religious congregation, we urge you to seek counselling and healing. You do not have to report the abuse to the Church, but if you do we will take what you say seriously – even if you prefer to remain anonymous, and even if the abuse happened many years ago.
Contact information if you wish to report abuse:
Archdiocese of Wellington: Telephone 04 496 1766, email@example.com
National Office for Professional Standards: Telephone 09 415 5470, firstname.lastname@example.org
You can be assured of confidentiality whatever way you make contact.