WelCom April 2021
The Catholic Church in Aotearoa New Zealand has made a formal apology to victims and survivors of abuse committed by priests and other Church figures.
Cardinal John Dew, Archbishop of Wellington and President of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, gave the apology during a hearing of the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care.
Addressing the victims and survivors of abuse, Cardinal John said: ‘I apologise to you, on behalf of the bishops and congregational leaders of the Catholic Church in Aotearoa New Zealand. I also apologise to you on behalf of those who preceded us as bishops and congregational leaders. We offer no excuses for their actions, or for ours, that have caused you harm.’
Cardinal John said he, his fellow bishops and the leaders of the Church’s religious orders and congregations had heard and acknowledged victims and survivors who had spoken out over many years and at the Royal Commission.
‘You have spoken of abuse perpetrated by bishops, priests, brothers, sisters, and lay people in the Catholic Church. People you should have been able to trust. We have heard you and acknowledge that we have caused you pain, hurt, and trauma, and that this continues to impact you. Any kind of abuse is unacceptable and indefensible. We are deeply sorry.’
Cardinal John acknowledged that systems and culture of the Church allowed abuse to occur. ‘These systems and culture failed you and must change. We apologise for the times that we or our predecessors protected the Church and not you.’
“We apologise for the times that we or our predecessors protected the Church and not you.”Cardinal John Dew
The bishops and congregational leaders understood and appreciated proposals from individuals and groups calling for an independent body to provide redress: ‘We will listen to and work with all parties who are considering and developing these proposals and continue to work with the Commission as it deliberates.’
The Cardinal said he was committed ‘to a Church that spares no effort to create a culture that prevents abuse and any possibility of cover-ups, to a Church that listens and learns from you, and then acts.’
The two-week redress hearing also heard from Fr Tom Doyle, a US canon lawyer, Br Peter Horide (Marist Brothers), Fr Tim Duckworth SM (Society of Mary) and Virginia Noonan (National Office for Professional Standards). The Salvation Army and the Anglican Church also gave evidence to the Commission.
Counsel assisting the Commission, Katherine Anderson, told the hearing that preliminary data indicated that ‘it’s very clear that the Catholic Church has received a significantly higher volume of disclosures of abuse than have the other faiths, including the Salvation Army and the Anglican Church that you have heard from this week and last week.
‘The preliminary figure is in excess of 1,100 disclosures of abuse,’ she said.
Survivors of abuse in care in the three churches gave evidence in the first phase of the redress hearing late last year. The Royal Commission is looking primarily at abuse between 1950 and 1999, although experiences outside these years may also be heard. Abuse being investigated includes sexual, physical, emotional, psychological abuse and neglect.
The Catholic Church and other faith-based bodies asked to be part of the Royal Commission, which when first established was limited to inquiring into abuse in state care. It was announced that the terms of reference would be broadened in 2018. The Royal Commission’s final report is due in 2023.
The national leader of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, Christopher Longhurst, told the hearing that SNAP was asking that ‘any redress process be survivor-focused and survivor-led.’
He said that to gain the trust and confidence of survivors, a secular statutory body had to be set up to deal with redress. He also asked for proper compensation to facilitate people’s rehabilitation.
Following the Phase 2 Redress Hearings, the Royal Commission heard closing addresses over two weeks from 15 to 25 March, from the Salvation Army, Anglican Church and Catholic Church on the matters raised during the hearings. A written synopsis of the Catholic Church’s closing address is online at: www.catholic.org.nz/assets/Uploads/Closing-Synopsis-of-submissions-29-March.pdf
The Royal Commission will present a report to the Government on its Redress hearings later this year. It will be holding many more hearings on other matters over the next two years. It is due to present a final report to the Government in 2023.
Report abuse to the National Office for Professional Standards of the Catholic Church in Aotearoa New Zealand, online a safeguarding.catholic.org.nz/report, phone 0800 114 622 or email firstname.lastname@example.org or contact the Police.