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Highest Ranked Catholic Church Officials In NZ Accused Of Child Sexual Assault Sought High-Level Court Suppression

In April 2023, credible reports of clerical child sexual assault and other abuses including psychological torture perpetrated against innocent and helpless children by clergy who went on to become high-ranked officials in New Zealand's Catholic Church, were received by the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) in Aotearoa New Zealand.

In May 2023, the New Zealand Police and New Zealand Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care were informed. Catholic Church authorities in both New Zealand and Vatican City State were also informed.

SNAP reports that the children were left in the care of St. Joseph's Convent, Upper Hutt, New Zealand, an orphanage run by the Sisters of Mercy from around 1918 until 1980. The crimes are alleged to have taken place in the late 1970s in the orphanage’s male dormitory and adjacent Church presbytery run by the Catholic Archdiocese of Wellington.

Many alleged victims and witnesses may still be alive.

SNAP is seeking other victims and witnesses to come forward, and encourages anyone with knowledge of the alleged crimes to report what they know. “Healing for the victims and society can only take place through the light of truth,” said SNAP Aotearoa National Leader Dr. Christopher Longhurst.

SNAP claims that the accused, two as heads of two Dioceses in New Zealand, are known to have actively shielded other accused priests still in ministry. SNAP is concerned for the welfare of children given that reports about the accused being stood down by current leader of New Zealand’s Catholic Church, Archbishop Paul Martin of Wellington, may not be true. At least one of the accused remains in ministry as investigations continue.

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SNAP notes that in 2002, the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference stated, "we give you an assurance of our commitment to confront this problem with openness and transparency." This statement was reiterated by the accused Cardinal John Dew to the Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry. Yet the Cardinal has now behaved in the opposite manner by attempting, through the Supreme Court (the highest court in the land), to cover up abuse allegations against himself. This is in contradiction to earlier statements the Cardinal made, or was a party to, and is an act of hypocrisy.

Regarding current allegations no longer being suppressed, based on patterns in similar situations such as those against Cardinal George Pell, some people of faith will attempt to deny the allegations against the Cardinal and the others accused alongside the Cardinal. “Denial is a powerful coping mechanism, and our hearts go out to all the ‘people of God’ who will be distressed by this news,” Longhurst said. “However, denial cannot change the truth of crimes perpetrated by priests and nuns against vulnerable children,” Longhurst added.

Donald McLeish, National Leader of SNAP Australia and a Trustee of SNAP Aotearoa clarified: “Let us not forget that churchgoers will be praying for their accused leaders not because they are accused, many are accused; but because they are of the highest rank in the New Zealand Catholic Church.” SNAP believes this distinction is significant.

“It appears that predator priests rose to power and have since protected other paedophile priests still active in the New Zealand Catholic Church. It is this fact that is most disturbing to us today,” said McLeish.

The persons who reported the abuse at St. Joseph's Convent School and presbytery are receiving support. “Our prayers are with them and their whānau,” Longhurst said.

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