The Catholic Church in New Zealand says a more thorough investigation is needed before it involves police in its historic abuse findings.
Following a two-year inquiry, the church reported last week that it had found 1680 recorded instances of alleged abuse since 1950 – of which 592 alleged abusers were identified. Many of the complaints were upheld at the time, but it is not known how many resulted in a police investigation.
Victim advocates, who said the inquiry likely covered a fraction of overall abuse, questioned what would be done with the new findings.
“There’s still a lot not clear from our analysis about how many of the allegations were upheld,” Cardinal John Dew told the Herald when asked about the plans for the investigation.
“Most of them have been. But considerable research is still needed to be done to see how many have been upheld, and that is something we’re continuing to work on.”
Dew, the most senior representative of the church in this country, said the information had not been centralised until now and had been spread across dioceses and congregations. Further analysis would show what had happened to the perpetrators and what redress had been made to the complainant, he said.
Asked what would be done with upheld complaints that had not yet been referred to police, a spokesman noted that many of the alleged abusers had died. The spokesman reiterated that more work was needed before any action was taken.
A change in church protocol in 1993 required complaints of illegal acts to be referred to police and for the appointment of an independent investigator – usually a former police officer. This was partly in response to concerns that serious abuse cases had been dealt with in-house, or were covered up.
The church’s investigation into historic abuse was released ahead of the next stage of the Royal Commission of Inquiry into State Abuse.
Hearings beginning today in Christchurch are focusing on two notorious local institutions, Marylands School, a live-in facility for students with learning difficulties, and Hebron Trust, a facility for at-risk youth.
The church’s own inquiry found 236 accusations of abuse had been recorded at these sites, which were run by the St John of God brothers. Brothers from the order also abused residents at the neighbouring St Joseph’s Orphanage, run by the Sisters of Nazareth.
Darryl Smith was sent to Marylands School by his parents at age 6 because he had been running away from home. While there, he was abused by Brother Rodger Moloney, who was later jailed.
The passage of time hadn’t dimmed the abuse, Smith told the Herald. He still slept with the light on and scrubbed himself raw in the bath.
Smith, who will speak before the commission tomorrow, said he felt the state was as responsible as the church for his abuse. He went to Marylands on the advice of the Ministry of Education, and the (former) Department of Social Welfare was also required to monitor the institution.
Two St John brothers – Moloney and Bernard McGrath – were convicted for the abuse of boys at Marylands. But the criminal prosecution focused on individual wrongdoing, and little scrutiny has been applied to the roles of the church and state in the case – something which the commission aims to rectify.
After a police investigation in the 2000s, Smith received total compensation of $150,000 from St John of God, which he described as “rubbish”. In 2012, the NZ and Australia governments apologised to him and he received $30,000 as part of the NZ Confidential Listening and Assistance Service. He even travelled to the Vatican to speak on behalf of abuse victims.
But his job is not done. He wants St John of God to be held fully accountable and for proper redress for survivors, including adequate payouts, long-term mental health support, and housing.
“It’s not a money grab,” Smith said. “It is what we are entitled to. You rape a child, you take their childhood away from them. Some of us have never worked because we have been so ill, or got in trouble with police. Why should we have to miss out?”
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