WelCom April 2022
Former Catholic Bishop of Dunedin John Kavanagh failed to act on a complaint of abuse against one priest but did take action appropriate for the time after a complaint was made against another priest, an inquiry process has found.
Cardinal John Dew requested an inquiry in 2020 after a number of victims of abuse in the Dunedin diocese complained that Bishop Kavanagh – who died in 1985 – had not properly dealt with their complaints of sexual abuse by priests.
At the cardinal’s request, the Church’s complaints body – the National Office for Professional Standards (NOPS) – engaged independent Christchurch senior investigator Micky Earl of the firm Corporate Risks to conduct an investigation into abuse complaints in the Dunedin diocese while Bishop Kavanagh was in office from 1957 to 1985.
Mr Earl’s report has been considered by the NOPS Complaints Assessment Committee, and then by Cardinal Dew as the final arbiter.
‘The records showed that seven priests, two brothers and one lay teacher sexually abused children and in one case an adult during Bishop Kavanagh’s time as Bishop of Dunedin,’ said Cardinal Dew.
‘The investigation found that Bishop Kavanagh knew of complaints related to two priests: Father Freek Schokker in about 1963; and Magnus Murray in about 1972. He did not know of the other cases, because complaints were not made until some years after Bishop Kavanagh had died.
‘In the case of Murray, the Complaints Assessment Committee found that Murray admitted abuse to Bishop Kavanagh and was sent to Australia for treatment,’ said Cardinal Dew. ‘Because of that admission, and by sending Murray for treatment, Bishop Kavanagh did what he was required to under the Church canon law at the time.
‘In the case of Father Schokker, Bishop Kavanagh should have investigated the complaint, but failed to do so,’ Cardinal Dew added.
Freek Schokker was a priest from the Netherlands working in the diocese at the time of the complaint. He was accused of abusing two young people. He left New Zealand at some stage after the complaint and died in the Netherlands in 1993, age 81.
Magnus Murray was jailed for five years in 2003 after admitting 10 offences against four Dunedin boys from 1958 to 1972. Murray was laicised in 2019.
In light of the findings of the inquiry process, the Bishop of Dunedin Michael Dooley has decided that Kavanagh College will be renamed Trinity Catholic College from January 1, 2023.The decision was made after consultation with the college and diocesan community.
A number of survivors of abuse in the Dunedin diocese had asked Bishop Michael to change the name of the college.