New Zealand Abuse Report Says Church Has Not Taken “Enough Steps” To Address Problem

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A new report on sexual abuse in New Zealand indicates that abuse in religious contexts often causes “special harm” to victims.

The report quotes Thomas Doyle, a former Catholic priest and a leading expert on abuse in the Catholic Church, who called it “soul murder.”

The report of the Royal Commission on Abuse in Care – titled Il Purapura Ora, il Māra Tipu; from Redress to Puretumu – was tabled in the New Zealand parliament on December 15.

The document makes recommendations on how survivors of abuse in state and faith-based care should be heard and how they should be compensated. The three religious denominations covered by the report were the Catholic Church, the Anglican Church and the Salvation Army.

The Royal Commission was set up by the government, but was completely independent of the government and the religious groups involved. The main period of investigation was from 1950 to 1999, although he had discretion to review incidents before and after that period in order to inform his recommendations.

The report noted that survivors who experience religious or spiritual abuse “may have a shaken feeling or a complete loss of faith and spirituality – things that are sometimes central to the survivor’s sense of identity prior to the abuse.”

“They can stop participating in religious observances and practices together. This may contribute to an intense sense of loss of the spiritual dimension of identity, which previously provided a source of strength, support and meaning, ”the report says, adding that the trauma of the abuse could prevent victims from dying. ” attend weddings, funerals, baptisms or other family reunions if these events take place in a religious setting.

“The signs, symbols, rituals and people who represented spiritual security become lasting reminders of the betrayal and trauma suffered,” the report notes.

The report indicated that prior to the 1990s, Catholic Church leaders responded to reports of abuse on an ad hoc basis, usually under conditions of great secrecy. Few records were kept, and even when reports of abuse were documented in one way or another, the records were often incomplete.

In his testimony at the inquest, Cardinal John Dew of Wellington acknowledged that the Catholic Church’s approach to redress and abuse cases prior to 1985 had not been well handled, saying “it ‘was a terrible time and it should never have happened like this ”.

The report says the Catholic Church “has not taken sufficient steps to reduce” the “many” structural obstacles survivors face when disclosing abuse to the Church, and adds that bishops and superiors religious did not use the procedures prescribed by Church law or use them correctly.

“In addition, only the Holy See can permanently dismiss a priest or bishop from the ministry, but the responses of the Holy See are often delayed. This suggests that the rights of alleged perpetrators take priority over the needs of survivors and over preventing further abuse, ”the report said.

The report also claims that Church authorities are placing more emphasis on investigating allegations of abuse rather than “treating the survivor with empathy and compassion.”

“The interests of survivors are not paramount in the Catholic Church’s reparation policy or in its reparation process in general,” the report said.

“Catholic institutions often fail to provide appropriate care and support to survivors during reparations or criminal proceedings,” he continues, noting that prior to the investigation, the Catholic Church generally did not attempted to collect or analyze information on reports of abuse, including the prevalence of abuse.

“Poor record keeping, a culture of secrecy, and an apparent lack of interest or inclination to understand the nature and extent of the abuses meant that church leaders had limited knowledge of the systemic issues of concern. impact on the safety of the people they were caring for, ”he said.

“Leaders of Catholic Church authorities have not prioritized their duty to assess and minimize the risk of recidivism when responding to reports of abuse. We consider that they viewed repair processes and survivor responses as separate from backup responses. This ignores a key motivation for survivors to come forward, which is to prevent further abuse, ”the report continued.

The Crown Commission makes several recommendations, public apologies, streamlined communications and methods of redress, and greater sensitivity to the cultural needs of New Zealand’s Maori and Pacific Islander communities.

The report was well received by the New Zealand Conference of Catholic Bishops, the Aotearoa New Zealand Conference of Congregation Heads representing Catholic religious orders and similar entities, and Te Rōpū Tautoko, the group formed to coordinate the Catholic engagement with the royal commission.

“We listened carefully to what the survivors told the royal commission. We have previously indicated our support for the establishment of an independent redress regime. This report gives a series of recommendations that we can study to help us walk alongside survivors of abuse, ”Dew said in a Dec. 15 statement.

Follow Charles Collins on Twitter: @CharlesinRome

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