Trio 'sincerely regret' hurt caused by comments

The Bishops of Auckland and Dunedin, together with a senior member of the Catholic Diocese of Dunedin, have added their names to an apology for earlier comments implying parents bore some responsibility for stopping clerical sexual abuse.

Dunedin Bishop the Most Rev Michael Dooley and Monsignor the Rt Rev John Harrison, both of Dunedin, and Auckland Bishop the Most Rev Patrick Dunn have together signed a joint apology sent to the Otago Daily Times as a letter to the editor.

In it, the trio said they wanted to "unreservedly apologise" for earlier comments published by ODT Insight as part of its ongoing Marked by the Cross investigation.

"We unreservedly apologise if we gave the impression that parents were somehow to blame for the sexual abuse of their children.

"This was never our intention and we are, each of us, saddened that it was interpreted in this way."

The comments, which provoked an outcry, came in the ODT Insight article Sins of a Father, published earlier this month.

The article, detailing the abuses of former Dunedin priest Fr Magnus Murray and the handling of his behaviour by the church, quoted Msgr Harrison describing how one Dunedin victim's complaints to his parents had been ignored.

"If that had been picked up - and I'm not casting any aspersions on the parents at all - that would have perhaps prevented a whole lot more," he said.

Bishop Dunn said he found it "extraordinary that parents didn't go straight to the police in the 1970s and '80s".

The comments prompted objections from a survivors' support network and one survivor, who threatened further action if Msgr Harrison and Bishop Dunn did not apologise.

Hamilton Bishop the Most Rev Steve Lowe, in an email on behalf of the New Zealand bishops, apologised "unreservedly" on August 14, saying "we sincerely regret the hurt these comments have caused to victims, survivors and their families".

That was not enough for the survivor, who again demanded apologies directly from Msgr Harrison and Bishop Dunn.

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