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Accused nun in talks on NZ sex cases

A nun at the centre of allegations of sexual and physical abuse of children at a Brisbane orphanage is the head of a New Zealand order and involved in negotiations with alleged New Zealand victims, according to a report in The Australian today.

Sr Bernard Mary, one of four nuns still alive who is accused of abusing children at the Sisters of Nazareth orphanage in Brisbane in the 1950s and 60s, has been congregational leader in Christchurch for 12 months. Nuns at Nazareth House at Wynnum have been accused of raping young girls with flagsticks and forcing them to eat faeces and rotting food.

Yesterday, Sr Bernard and the order's lawyers met legal representatives of at least five women planning to sue to decide whether the case would proceed through the courts or be mediated, but no decision was reached.

According to NZ television, victim Ann Thompson lived at Christchurch's Nazareth House from ages 10 to 19 where she says she was repeatedly stripped and beaten by nuns. The nuns claimed she had the devil in her because she was born out of wedlock, she told One News.

"They used to put my head down the toilet and flush the chain," she said. Thompson and at least four others are pursuing legal claims against the Catholic Church. The group is seeking more than $A586,497 compensation.

NZ Catholic Communications director Lyndsay Freer said yesterday that Sr Bernard "absolutely and totally" rejected the allegations of abuse in Australia.

"There was a full police investigation and they found there was no complaint to answer," she said.

Ms Freer denied it was inappropriate for Sr Bernard to be involved in the negotiations despite the allegations against her.

"Sr Bernard, because she is the head of the order, is dealing with the allegations being made," she said.

Claims nuns tortured children (One News video)
Catholic Church in New Zealand | Catholic Communications

The Australian (payment required)/One News

4 Sep 2002