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NZ bishop disputes liability for sex abuse

Bishop Patrick Dunn of Auckland has reached a $A133,229 settlement with three brothers sexually abused by a priest, but told the brothers that the Church was not legally responsible.

The three brothers, Mike, Gerry and Chris Ledingham, reached the settlement over abuse they suffered in an Auckland parish 40 years ago. Bishop Dunn (pictured) said he was willing to make an ex gratia payment to express sorrow although he had reservations about how responsible the church was for the actions of Father Frank Green decades ago.

The Church is standing by Bishop Dunn's comments, although spokeswoman Lyndsay Freer is stressing its continuing moral and spiritual obligation to its members.

Expressing confidence that the Church has handled the case properly, she said money is not necessarily the only part of the healing process, and that any cases of abuse are to the church's "great shame".

Meanwhile the US Catholic Church's National Review Board has released a major report on sex abuse. The 145-page report, released at a press conference in Washington on Friday, attributed the country's clergy sex abuse crisis to "grievously sinful" acts of priests and inaction by bishops that let "the smoke of Satan" enter the church.

"As a result the church itself has been deeply wounded. Its ability to speak clearly and credibly on moral issues has been seriously impaired," said the all-lay board, which the bishops established in 2002 to monitor their efforts to bring an end to sexual abuse of minors by priests.

The often scathing report was an unprecedented lay critique of Catholic hierarchical policies and practices, written at the request of the bishops themselves.

The report insisted that seminaries "must deal with issues of sexual conduct more openly and more forthrightly".

"It is vital that bishops, provincials (religious-order superiors) and seminary rectors ensure that seminaries create a climate and a culture conducive to chastity," it said.

"Although the discipline of celibacy is not itself a cause of the current crisis, a failure properly to explain celibacy and prepare seminarians for a celibate life has contributed to it," it said.

The review board's report, known as the John Jay study, is titled A Report on the Crisis in the Catholic Church in the United States.

It revealed a higher than expected number of incidents and accused priests. Victims' groups expressed skepticism, suggesting that because the data is self-reported, it may actually understate the true dimensions of the problem. The study asked dioceses to report every accusation in their files, regardless of credibility.

The National Catholic Reporter's John Allen comments that the fact that the study concludes that 4392 priests have been accused does not necessarily mean that 4392 priests are guilty of sexual abuse.

Bishop disputes liability for sex abuse (NZ Herald 28/2/04)
Bishop's Comments Defended (XtraMSN/Newstalk ZB 29/2/04)
Report says clergy sexual abuse brought 'smoke of Satan' into church (Catholic News Service 27/2/04)
'The Passion' and 'liturgy wars'; A tour of Denver; Annual Religious Education Congress in Los Angeles; Canadian talk show TV; The John Jay report (National Catholic Reporter 26/2/04)

Catholic Review Board
US Conference of Catholic Bishops: National Review Board, John Jay & Audit Reports | The Nature and Scope of the Problem of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests and Deacons in the United States: A Research Study Conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice
John Jay College of Criminal Justice
Experts Question U.S. Catholic Priest Abuse Policy (Reuters 23/2/04)s
Vatican Weighs Reports for Abuse Rules (Associated Press/Guardian 23/2/04)
Vatican seminar questions "zero tolerance" on abuse (Catholic World News 23/2/04)
Vatican to consider scientific assessment of sex abuse by clergy ( Press 23/2/04)
Axing abusive priests risky, church told (Sydney Morning Herald 25/2/04)
Clergy abuse victim found dead (The Australian 24/2/04)
Vatican turns to science on abuse (Herald-Sun 24/2/04)
Understanding of child sex abuse has evolved in last 50 years (Catholic News Service 23/2/04)
Vatican seminar questions "zero tolerance" on abuse (Catholic World News 23/2/04)
Priests abused 10,000 children (Sunday Mail 29/2/04)
Bishops blasted in abuse report (Sun-Herald 29/2/04)
Pressure remains on the church (Newsday 29/2/04)
Grappling with abuse (Baltimore Sun 29/2/04)
4% of Catholic priesthood abused kids in their care (Reuters/Taipei Times 29/2/04)
700 Priests Removed Since January 2002 (US Conference of Catholic Bishops 27/2/04)
Church in America braces itself for sex abuse surveys (The Tablet 28/2/04)
Vatican publishes study on sexual abuse (Independent Catholic News 26/2/04)
Sermons, Protests Target Church Abuse ( 29/2/04)
U.S. officials at Vatican welcome release of sex abuse studies (Catholic News Service 27/2/04)
Four percent of priests serving over last 50 years accused of abuse (Catholic News Service 27/2/04)
Bishops say reports show sad reality of priests who preyed on young (Catholic News Service 27/2/04)
Boston says 7 percent of its priests accused of sex abuse since 1950 (Catholic News Service 27/2/04)
U.S. seminarians work to ensure they are not part of abuse problem (Catholic News Service 27/2/04)
The Forum: Why the Sex-Abuse Crisis Continues (Catholic World News 28/2/04)
Study shows scope of US sex-abuse scandal (Catholic World News 27/2/04)

30 Mar 2004