Kavanagh College to consider change

A fresh call to change the name of Kavanagh College is to be considered by the school's board of trustees, as pressure mounts over the role played by Dunedin's former Catholic bishop.

Murray Heasley, a spokesman for the Network of Survivors in Faith-based Institutions and their Supporters, has written to the board of the Catholic college for a second time to urge them to take action.

The renewed call for a name change followed recent ODT Insight reports highlighting the extent of sexual offending against children within the Catholic Diocese of Dunedin, including at the college's precursor, St Paul's High School.

Much of the offending occurred under the watch of then-Bishop John Kavanagh, who from 1949 to 1985 was Dunedin's fourth Catholic bishop, and who Dr Heasley said had ''command responsibility'' under canon law.

Kavanagh College acting chairman Paul O'Neill, responding to ODT Insight questions, confirmed on Tuesday the call for a name change would be considered at the college's next board meeting, scheduled for October 30.

However, a final decision could only be made by the college proprietor, the Roman Catholic Bishop of Dunedin, the Most Rev Michael Dooley, Mr O'Neill said.

Bishop Dooley would not comment this week, but last month said he would not condemn Bishop Kavanagh, or consider a college name change, without ''credible evidence'' to support such a move.

He has defended Bishop Kavanagh's role in endorsing the Dunedin paedophile priest Fr Magnus Murray to continue in public ministry even after his offending was revealed, saying he acted according to the understanding of the day.

Fr Murray was in 2003 convicted of crimes against four Dunedin boys, but ODT Insight has since found other victims in Dunedin, the North Island and Australia.

And ODT Insight has also since revealed a list of other offenders who abused children in Dunedin during the same period, all under Bishop Kavanagh's watch.

The list included St Paul's teacher Ian Thompson and at least four Christian Brothers all based in Dunedin - Brs Desmond Fay, Francis Henery, Vincent Sullivan and Richard Glen.

Fr Kevin Morton, another priest from Dunedin, also had his priestly faculties stripped in 2002, after allegations emerged he raped a boy in Oamaru in the 1970s.

In 1993, Fr Robin Paulson admitted offences against three children in Southland, while Fr Patrick Thwaites - who taught at St Peter's in Gore in 1977 - was in 1999 convicted of offences against boys in Christchurch and the West Coast in the 1980s.

Other offenders have also been implicated, but cannot yet be named for legal reasons.

Dr Heasley, in his latest letter to the Kavanagh College board, said there was also evidence Bishop Kavanagh knew about Fr Murray's offending in 1969, but did not act until 1972, allowing him to continue offending in Dunedin.

Three members of the same class attending St Mary's School in Mosgiel in 1969, where Fr Murray was parish priest at the time, have told ODT Insight all boys in the class were warned about Fr Murray in 1969.

One of the boys, who was also a victim of Fr Murray, said the warning was delivered by Fr Murray's assistant priest at the time and Sister Mary de Lourdes, then the school principal.

''It was a general blanket talk, saying ... that if anything is said to you, or you hear anything, about Fr Murray, especially anything negative, to let them know,'' the former pupil said.

He believed it was the kind of warning that would not have escaped Bishop Kavanagh's attention.

''Anything that's done at the church, or anything like that, is dictated to by the Bishop.''

Bishop Dooley, when the suggestion was put to him during last month's extended interview, said he was not aware of the claim.

''I'm not aware of that, but I'm interested to hear that.''

Dr Heasley, in his letter to the board, said the fresh revelations about the scale of offending and Bishop Kavanagh's role needed a response.

Dr Heasley, who was a pupil at St Paul's High School and a head prefect in 1969, had previously called for a name change last year, after finding a 1968 staff photograph containing Fr Murray's image still on display at Kavanagh College.

The picture was quickly removed, but the call for a name change was rejected by the college board.

In his latest letter to the board, Dr Heasley said it was now clear the offending photo contained the pictures of three paedophiles - Fr Murray and Brs Glen and Henery - seated side by side.

In Pennsylvania, where at least 300 priests abused more than 1000 children over decades, the Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg has named offenders and moved to strip the names of bishops who failed to act from church properties.

In Christchurch, Catholic Bishop Paul Martin has also said the church could consider naming clergy who abused children, even if they had not gone through the courts, if church investigations found they were guilty.

Dr Heasley said similar public accounting was needed in Dunedin, beginning by renaming Kavanagh College, to recognise the ''serious trauma'' inflicted upon victims.

''Bishop Kavanagh bears the full responsibility for this and the destruction of lives that ensued.''

Bishop Dooley and Mr O'Neill did not respond when asked again yesterday to comment on Dr Heasley's views.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

Comments

Back the truck up! sure a name change is valid but it is just a band aid over the festering scum who do this. Wasn't this school called St Pauls prior? What needs to happen is those in power need to ensure that the full force of the law comes down and hammers these clowns so bad that it deters others from this happening, for way too long it appears the old boys club has been protecting these clown. it needs to stop and 'they' and the offenders no matter what age they are pay and pay big time.
I'd even go as far as assets be sold and given to the victims.