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New Zealand Catholic Church sorry for sex abuse cases

The Catholic Church in New Zealand said it knew of 38 cases of sexual abuse by church officers in the past 50 years and offered victims an "unreserved" apology.

In the Church's first admission of widespread sexual abuse by church personnel in New Zealand, officials said the cases included complaints against priests and lay members in positions of authority. The abuse was perpetrated against children and teenagers, as well as adults receiving care from the church.

In an open apology, Fr Tim Duckworth of the Society of Mary, New Zealand's largest order of priests, said the church's former policy of moving known offenders to other parishes or schools, rather than removing them from their duties, was a mistake.

"I unreservedly apologise on behalf of brother priests and religious (members of the church community) for the hurt that has been done by some few of our number," he said in a statement.

Catholic communications director Lyndsay Freer said the repeat nature of offenders was not understood in the past, and a change in attitude had now occurred.

Under new church policies, any known paedophiles will be removed from their duties and victims will be strongly recommended to take criminal complaints to the police.

However, Brent Cherry, a sex abuse counsellor who has dealt with victims of priests, doesn't believe the church is taking the abuse cases seriously enough.

"These people have wrecked lives. It sounds horrible to say, but they are some of the worst offenders."

New Zealand church leaders also said they would halt a practice of using confidentiality clauses to gag victims who reached financial settlements with the church.

Catholic Church in New Zealand


24 Jun 2002