Church releases ‘horrifying’ abuse figures

New abuse figures show one in seven Catholic clergy who work for a bishop have had abuse complaints laid against them.

The Catholic Church for the first time yesterday publicly released figures showing the scale of sexual and other abuse nationwide since 1950.

NZ Catholic Bishops Conference president Cardinal John Dew said the figures were ‘‘horrifying’’.

The church compiled the numbers in response to a request from the Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse.

They show 1122 survivors laid almost 1700 complaints naming almost 600 perpetrators of abuse. Others were not named.

About half were over sexual abuse, and 80% involved children.

Almost 380 complaints were laid against 182 — or 14% — of clergy who work under a bishop (called ‘‘diocesan’’ clergy).

This compares with 599 complaints made against 8% (187) of the 2286 brothers or priests who work for a congregation, and 258 reports against 3% (120) of the 4247 nuns or sisters.

About 140 allegations of abuse were made against others, such as staff or volunteers.

The scale of abuse had not been collated before now, chairwoman of Te Ropu Tautoko Catherine Fyfe said.

Te Ropu Tautoko is the Catholic body that co-ordinates with the royal commission.

‘‘We have published this information now, as soon as the work on it has been completed,’’ Ms Fyfe said in a statement.

Congregational Leaders Conference of Aotearoa New Zealand president Sr Margaret Anne Mills, representing Catholic religious orders and similar entities, said the data represented many people’s lives, and often ‘‘terrible harm committed by one person on another. We can never forget that’’.

All Church leaders had to acknowledge their shared history in this, she said.

Facts like these helped to face up to ‘‘the sad reality’’, Cardinal Dew said.

‘‘These statistics ... are horrifying and something we are deeply ashamed of ... The Church will learn from this and affirm its commitment to the work of safeguarding.’’

A survivor of abuse at a church school, Steve Goodlass, of Central Otago, said this first release was a good sign that perhaps the Church was having a genuine change of heart in favour of transparency and accountability.

The report shows the Church had paid out $16.8million to 470 survivors.

And $10million of that has gone to victims of two organisations, the St John of God Brothers, and the Sisters of Nazareth.



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