Support for victims less than hoped

Ribbons tied to a candlestick, on display at Alexandra's Catholic Church of St John the Baptist, do not do enough to support victims of sexual abuse within the church, a survivor says. Photo: Supplied
Ribbons tied to a candlestick, on display at Alexandra's Catholic Church of St John the Baptist, do not do enough to support victims of sexual abuse within the church, a survivor says. Photo: Supplied
A ribbon-tying initiative in the Catholic Diocese of Dunedin has been launched to support victims of historic sexual abuse, but not everybody is happy.

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Dunedin, the Most Rev Michael Dooley, wrote to all parishes last month, asking them to support the ''Loud Fences'' movement by tying ribbons in a designated area of the church on October 6.

The movement, launched in Australia in 2015, spread to Dunedin last year, when coloured ribbons were added to the fence at St Joseph's Cathedral by about 30 survivors, supporters and representatives from the diocese, including Bishop Dooley.

However, sexual abuse survivor Steve Goodlass, who lives in Central Otago, contacted the Otago Daily Times this week to criticise the church's effort to spread the initiative to other parts of the diocese.

He had driven to Alexandra's Catholic Church of St John the Baptist to add his own ribbon on October 6, but arrived to find no sign of any ribbons.

He contacted the parish priest, Fr Vaughan Leslie, who told him the ribbons had been tied to a candlestick instead.

The candlestick was being moved around the pastoral area on October 6, for more ribbons to be added, but had since returned to Alexandra's church, where it would remain for the foreseeable future, he told Mr Goodlass.

Mr Goodlass said he had since returned to the church to add his ribbons, which were supplied at the church, but found they were too short.

Those which had already been tied to the candle holder could not be read, he said.

Mr Goodlass said he was disappointed, as there appeared to be a reluctance to have ribbons outside the church and the alternative ''really doesn't align with what the loud fences initiative is''.

Fr Leslie would not be drawn on that yesterday, but said he was trying to do his best for all concerned.

''We have provided an opportunity in a meaningful way, and I'm sorry if that doesn't meet the expectations [of all], but we have carried out this opportunity for people to express their support and solidarity with victims and survivors.''

He had previously spoken out about the Catholic Church's handling of historic sexual abuse allegations, saying the church's response - in New Zealand and overseas - had helped fuel the ''abuse crisis'' engulfing the church.

The absence of ribbons outside the Alexandra church was the latest headache for the church in its handling of the Loud Fences movement.

Earlier this year, ribbons tied to the St Mary of the Angels church in Wellington were cut off by the parish priest there, prompting a public outcry which eventually had them reinstated.

Bishop Dooley had also asked all parishes across the Dunedin diocese to pray for victims and survivors of abuse on October 6, as well as in support of the royal commission examining the dark chapter in New Zealand history.

However, the ODT has also been told messages were not read out at all parish churches, despite the request, and that ribbons had not been provided at at least one other church.

Bishop Dooley, who is overseas, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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