The Catholic bishop of Dunedin says he may not wait for a royal commission before lifting the lid on the sexual abuse of children by men of the cloth within the diocese.

Bishop Michael Dooley told ODT Insight he was considering a public “full disclosure” based on diocesan records of complaints alleging clergy abuse of children.

That would include naming alleged offenders and revealing the numbers of victims involved and payouts made within the Dunedin diocese, where complaints were deemed “credible” and church records existed.

Published in Otago Daily Times

Such a move would set a precedent in New Zealand but follow Catholic parishes overseas, including Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which named 71 offenders in August.

Bishop Dooley said he had already raised the idea with the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, which was “looking seriously at it”.

“It is something that the other dioceses are thinking of, too. I think they would be open [to it].”

If the initiative went ahead in Dunedin, the information could be released within months, he said.

That would happen independently of New Zealand’s expanded royal commission, which the Catholic Church has promised would receive a “co-operative response” from the church.

Bishop Dooley said the church’s engagement with the inquiry would be led by a new group, Te Ropu Tautoko, formed by the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference and the Congregational Leaders Conference Aotearoa New Zealand.

And the commission would “most definitely” get full disclosure from his diocese. He was also still considering whether to rename Kavanagh College.

The comments came as uncertainty continued yesterday over the extent to which faith-based institutions would be included in the expanded inquiry.

The Government announced the inquiry would include the abuse of children “in the care of” faith-based institutions.

The definition of “in the care of” was unclear, leaving Liz Tonks, a spokeswoman for the Network of Survivors of Abuse in Faith Based Institutions and Their Supporters, concerned.

The majority of survivors within her group were legally in their parents’ care when abused in religious day schools, while serving as altar boys, or when parents welcomed a priest into their home, she said.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Internal Affairs Minister Tracey Martin had “led our victim survivors to believe they are included … but the terms of reference do not provide that assurance”, Ms Tonks said.

“We need urgent assurance the majority of our victim survivors will not be left out and silenced again.”

Australia’s royal commission had taken a different approach, scrutinising the institutional responses to child sexual abuse.

That specifically included sexual abuse occurring both within an institution’s premises and in circumstances connected to the activities of an institution, as well as the actions of officials even in settings not directly controlled by their institution.

The Prime Minister’s office and Ms Martin did not respond to requests for comment again yesterday.

A royal commission spokeswoman acknowledged the “huge” interest in the terms of reference. They would be reviewed by legal counsel, Sir Anand Satyanand and the other commissioners

Decisions would then be made on the scope and an announcement made on how the inquiry would run.

“The Royal Commission will do whatever it can to help people engage with us.”

By Chris Morris
Published in Otago Daily Times
14 November 2018