Church at­tacked for si­lence

Otago Daily Times - - FRONT PAGE - CHRIS MOR­RIS

THE head of the Uni­ver­sity of Otago’s the­o­log­i­cal col­lege has launched a blis­ter­ing at­tack on the Catholic Church and the Bishop of Dunedin, say­ing their re­sponse to his­toric sex­ual abuse is ‘‘a fail­ure of the church’s mo­ral lead­er­ship’’.

The com­ments by Prof David Tombs come as the church main­tains its si­lence over the ex­tent of his­toric abuse by clergy within the Dunedin dio­cese.

Since Au­gust, ODT In­sight has high­lighted the church’s han­dling of one pae­dophile priest, Fr Mag­nus Mur­ray, and iden­ti­fied other of­fend­ers — in­clud­ing priests, Chris­tian Broth­ers and Catholic teach­ers — who tar­geted chil­dren over decades.

But Bishop Michael Doo­ley — who pub­licly apol­o­gised to the city in

Au­gust — has since re­peat­edly re­fused to say how many his­toric of­fend­ers, vic­tims or pay­outs the church is aware of within the Dunedin dio­cese.

And, in re­cent weeks, he has is­sued ODT In­sight with new ‘‘guide­lines’’ for re­spond­ing to ques­tions, in­clud­ing that he would ‘‘re­serve my right to ex­er­cise dis­cre­tion in an­swer­ing any re­quest’’.

Since then, Bishop Doo­ley has ig­nored re­quests for com­ment, in­clud­ing on re­cent al­le­ga­tions lev­elled against one of the most se­nior mem­bers of the clergy in Dunedin in re­cent times, who has since died.

At the same time, the New Zealand Catholic Bish­ops Con­fer­ence has backed away from an ear­lier com­mit­ment, given to a na­tional sur­vivors’ group, to make a pub­lic state­ment on the need for the church to be in­cluded in an ex­panded royal com­mis­sion.

The Gov­ern­ment is still mulling the scope of the in­quiry, but draft terms of ref­er­ence — re­leased ear­lier this year — would ex­clude most faith­based set­tings and many vic­tims of cler­i­cal sex­ual abuse.

Prof Tombs said Bishop Doo­ley’s ap­proach to me­dia scru­tiny ap­peared to be ‘‘rais­ing [the] bar­rier to jour­nal­is­tic in­quiries . . . as a way to evade dif­fi­cult ques­tions’’.

He also wanted to see ‘‘much greater ur­gency’’ from Bishop Doo­ley, and New Zealand’s other Catholic bish­ops, in press­ing for the terms of the royal com­mis­sion to be ex­panded.

‘‘If the terms do not change . . . then Bishop Doo­ley is in ef­fect say­ing that the church will not take pos­i­tive steps for truth or jus­tice.

‘‘At present, Bishop Doo­ley is leav­ing it to the me­dia to show lead­er­ship in get­ting to the truth, and seems to be re­sist­ing rather than [sup­port­ing] this process.

‘‘This is a fail­ure of the church’s mo­ral lead­er­ship . . . it is eth­i­cally wrong and a fail­ure to wit­ness to the Gospel.’’

Prof Tombs said ODT In­sight’s rev­e­la­tions had been ‘‘con­sis­tently re­spon­si­ble and fair’’.

It had high­lighted the ex­tent of his­toric abuse in the Dunedin dio­cese was ‘‘much greater than the church ini­tially re­vealed, and there has been a cover­up to at least some de­gree’’.

‘‘For the church to be tightlipped is to sus­tain this.’’

Ev­i­dence over­seas was that when an in­quiry be­gan ask­ing prob­ing ques­tions, the ex­tent of the abuse and the cover­up were both shown to be ‘‘much more se­ri­ous’’ than pre­vi­ously ac­knowl­edged.

‘‘So it seems the church [in New Zealand] is try­ing to avoid this by say­ing as lit­tle as pos­si­ble — be­yond its re­gret, sor­row and sense of fail­ure.

‘‘I have no rea­son to doubt that these feel­ings are gen­uine but they have to be matched by a strong com­mit­ment to put things right.’’

Bishop Doo­ley, con­tacted yes­ter­day, would only say he would ‘‘wel­come the op­por­tu­nity to meet with and dis­cuss the con­cerns David Tombs has about my re­sponse’’.

‘‘At this present mo­ment I am meet­ing with lo­cal vic­tims and sur­vivors and my pri­mary con­cern is to lis­ten to them.’’

The church’s re­sponse was also crit­i­cised by mem­bers of the Net­work of Sur­vivors of Faith­based In­sti­tu­tional Abuse and their Sup­port­ers.

The group had met Hamil­ton Bishop Steve Lowe — as the bishop re­spon­si­ble for pro­fes­sional stan­dards — in Septem­ber to dis­cuss the need for a fresh state­ment from the NZ Catholic Bish­ops Coun­cil, call­ing for the church’s in­clu­sion in an ex­panded Royal Com­mis­sion.

Bishop Lowe had said one would be forth­com­ing, but it took un­til this week for the coun­cil’s new ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer, James van Schie, to email the group, only to re­it­er­ate the church’s ear­lier sub­mis­sions.

A church spokes­woman said last night the sub­mis­sions ar­gued for the terms of ref­er­ence to be broad­ened to be ‘‘vic­tim and sur­vivor­fo­cused’’ and ‘‘en­sure lessons are learned for the fu­ture’’.

‘‘We are of the firm view that no in­di­vid­ual should be de­nied the pos­si­bil­ity of mak­ing a sub­mis­sion to the com­mis­sion sim­ply be­cause their path of re­fer­ral to an in­sti­tu­tion was dif­fer­ent to an­other’s.’’

Net­work spokes­woman Liz Tonks be­lieved the church needed to go fur­ther, or the ma­jor­ity of vic­tims of faith­based abuse would be ex­cluded from the in­quiry.

‘‘At this point, the bish­ops . . . would ap­pear com­plicit in avoid­ing any in­ves­ti­ga­tion of the church in the Royal Com­mis­sion and have not demon­strated the eth­i­cal and mo­ral lead­er­ship ex­pected.’’

David Tombs

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from New Zealand

© PressReader. All rights reserved.