Catholic Church mum on abuse investigation

The cone of silence has descended again on the Catholic Church's investigation into the handling of sexual abuse allegations by a former Dunedin bishop.

It was confirmed last week New Zealand's top Catholic, Cardinal John Dew, the Archbishop of Wellington, had referred an investigation into former Dunedin Bishop John Kavanagh's actions to the Vatican.

Bishop Kavanagh was the fourth Catholic Bishop of Dunedin between 1949 and 1985, a period under the spotlight following revelations priests, religious brothers and lay teachers within the diocese were sexually abusing children.

Earlier this year, the National Office of Professional Standards (NOPS) - part of the Catholic Church in New Zealand - called in private investigators to examine past events in Dunedin.

Then, in May, Pope Francis issued new procedures for the handling of sexual abuse and cover-ups, including that bishops be held accountable for past actions.

NOPS director Virginia Noonan said the Pope's new directives had prompted Cardinal Dew's decision to refer the investigation to the Vatican
for "direction".

"Once Cardinal John has a response from Rome, I anticipate that he will advise Bishop Dooley and NOPS of next steps," she said.

However, Ms Noonan would not be drawn on other ODT Insight questions relating to the investigation, including the likely timeline from here or the potential options or outcomes that could follow.

She also would not comment on the work by Corporate Risks, the Christchurch-based private investigation firm commissioned to study events in Dunedin for the church.

Ms Noonan was asked whether her office had received a report from Corporate Risks about historic abuse in Dunedin, and whether she could say anything about the scope of the investigation and its findings.

She did not respond to those questions, instead referring them to a spokesman for the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, who would not answer them, either.

"There is no update on what Virginia told you yesterday; we are awaiting a response from Rome," was all he would say.


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