The Catholic Church has lost its bid to keep the identities of perpetrators and those accused of covering up abuse secret at the upcoming Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry hearing.

The hearing, beginning on Monday in Auckland, will hear from survivors of historical abuse in faith-based care, and the redress processes that followed.

Published in NZ Herald

The Catholic Church – in an application supported by the Anglican Church and Salvation Army – said they sought non-publication orders because they had not been given enough time to contact those who would be named, and the families of those now deceased.

They also raised concerns of natural justice for those deceased.

At a procedural hearing on the applications, which included those accused of abuse and those helping to cover it up, lawyer Sally McKechnie told chair Judge Coral Shaw the church was not seeking to hide evidence.

“It is purely a question of whether the name is publicly used now,” she said.

Some of the people would be named publicly for the first time, and they wanted to give their families more time to process the accusations, she said.

In a decision released today, Shaw declined all of the Catholic Church’s applications, bar one.

An interim restriction order was granted for one person for 14 days, which would be reviewed.

Shaw also allowed for one of the witnesses to be heard in private, as per their request.

A further ruling prohibits any religious clothing or uniform to be worn during the hearing.

Reasons for the decisions will be released at a later date.

Dr Murray Heasley, spokesman for the Network of Survivors of Abuse in Faith-based Institutions and their Supporters, told the Herald they were pleased with the outcome.

“Any other outcome would have been outrageous.

“Some survivors have been waiting 65 years for their chance to be heard, and this request to conceal names associated with horrific sexual abuse caused them enormous alarm.”

At the contextual hearing last year the churches had agreed to be open and transparent and victim and survivor-focused throughout the process, Heasley said.

“This application made a nonsense of that, it is the same old global playbook of secrecy and cover-ups.”

Catholic Church representative Catherine Fyfe said they had sought the interim non-publication orders because there could be traumatic consequences for family members who might not know those people would be named, and only hear it through media.

“The Church did not seek any wide-ranging non-publication orders at the hearings.

“The Church asked to be included in the Royal Commission. It fully supports the inquiry and it is actively co-operating with the Commission.

“We strongly encourage survivors to contact the Commission to share their experiences of abuse.

“The bishops and congregational leaders of the Catholic Church will be listening to survivors to learn from their experiences.”

The commission is investigating the abuse and neglect that happened to children, young people and vulnerable adults in care from 1950 to 1999, along with the processes of redress that followed for survivors.

Over September and October it heard about abuse in state institutions, and from November 30 it is to hear from survivors of abuse in faith-based care.

The inquiry

• The Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry is investigating the abuse and neglect that happened to children, young people and vulnerable adults in care from 1950 to 1999. It may also consider experiences of abuse or neglect outside these dates.

• As of November, 2277 people had registered with the Royal Commission, of whom 1930 were defined as survivors. The others are survivor advocates and family members of survivors. The commissioners have also held 578 private sessions.

• The State Redress Hearings ran from September to November. The first part focused on the experiences of survivors in seeking redress for abuse in state care. The second involved Crown agencies responding to survivors’ evidence and outlining past and current policies and processes.

• The Royal Commission is conducting specific investigations into a range of other areas, including one focused on Māori – who have made up over half of those taken into state care, Catholic and Anglican churches, people with disabilities and those in psychiatric care.

• The next public hearing will focus on redress for those in faith-based care, and start on November 30. A second stage will start in March next year, followed by Abuse in State children’s residential care in April and one Abuse in State psychiatric care, specifically Lake Alice, in June.

• After completing its investigations, the Royal Commission will make recommendations to the Governor-General on how New Zealand can better care for children, young people and vulnerable adults.

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By Michael Neilson
Published in NZ Herald
26 Nov 2020