Catholic Church welcomes details of Royal Commission's abuse inquiry

The Catholic Church in Aotearoa New Zealand welcomes the publication by the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care of details of the commission’s investigation into abuse committed in the care of the Church.

The commission has published documents giving the details of its investigation into the Church – including the Church’s part in faith-based redress for survivors – which will form part of the commission’s inquiry into the historic abuse of children in state- and faith-based care.

The commission says its investigation “will examine abuse which occurred in the care of the Catholic Church in Aotearoa New Zealand. The Catholic Church has provided care to children, young people and vulnerable adults from the 19th Century, and continues to provide care today.  The care provided has extended from its broadest pastoral obligations, to care within different institutional settings and entities including residential and non-residential care and schools. The Inquiry will investigate abuse and neglect that occurred from 1950 to 1999, and has the discretion to consider abuse that occurred before 1950, and from 1999 to the present day.”

Catherine Fyfe, chair of Te Rōpū Tautoko – the Church body established to liaise with the Royal Commission – welcomed the publication of the documents.

“Te Rōpū Tautoko is already working with the commission’s staff; and with Catholic dioceses and congregations to ensure timely and comprehensive responses, with transparency and openness,” Ms Fyfe said. “We will do all we can to positively engage in this important process of listening, acknowledging, learning, and reaffirming commitment to safeguarding the vulnerable.”

“At the heart of our responses to the Royal Commission is a set of principles based on the belief that every person has innate human dignity. With that at the front of our mind we enter this process wanting to primarily listen to, learn from, and support those harmed in Catholic institutions.”

The bishops and congregational leaders sought to have the Church included in the work of the Royal Commission, which when first established was limited to inquiring into abuse in state care.

Cardinal John Dew, Vice-President of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference and a Tautoko member, welcomed the publication of the documents. “We reaffirm our support for the work of the Royal Commission and our desire to learn from its work, which we are confident will contribute positively to the safeguarding of all people, and strengthening of families, communities and the wider society,” Cardinal Dew said.

The NZ Catholic Bishops Conference and the Congregational Leaders’ Conference Aotearoa New Zealand set up Te Rōpū Tautoko to ensure the Church provides a co-ordinated and co-operative response to the Royal Commission from all the many dioceses, congregations and institutions of the Church.