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The Catholic Church has launched an investigation into allegations that children were prostituted to clergy in New Zealand; the latest in a string of historic sexual abuse claims against the Church.
A former resident at a boys’ home in Wellington alleged that children were taken from the home to a Church site, where they would be selected by Catholic clergy members and subjected to sexual abuse.
Keith Wiffin, who lived in the Epuni Boys’ Home in Lower Hutt, Wellington, in the 1970s, told the Royal Commission of Inquiry on Tuesday, May 11, that while he had not been a victim of the practice himself, he had been told details by another former resident of the home who had.
He alleged that the boys, who were wards of the state, would be transported in a van, and that clergymen would walk around the boys looking at them, before selecting the ones they wanted to abuse.
Campaigners have suggested that the allegations amounted to child trafficking.
Eleanor Parkes, director of EPCAT Child Alert, told Stuff NZ:
Trafficking is the reception, recruitment, transport, transfer, concealment, or harbouring of any person for the purposes of exploitation. It does not have to involve crossing international borders at all, and most of the trafficking cases in New Zealand that we know about are domestic.
Wiffin, now 61, has previously given evidence about sexual abuse he suffered aged 11 at the hands of the boys’ home housemaster, Alan Moncrief-Wright, who was convicted and jailed for child sexual violation offences and has since died. At Tuesday’s hearing, Wiffin told the Commission that it was ‘not unusual’ for Moncrief-Wright to use the van to take boys to the homes of staff members for the weekend.
The Commission is looking into historic abuse in care in New Zealand, with much of the inquiry focusing on allegations of abuse in faith-based institutions between 1950 and 1999.
The Catholic Church is calling on anyone who experienced or has information about the claims to come forward. In a statement, Catherine Fyfe, chairperson for Te Rōpū Tautoko, an agency created to coordinate Catholic engagement with the Royal Commission, said, ‘The Catholic Church in Aotearoa New Zealand asked to be part of the Royal Commission’s inquiry and will continue to strongly support the inquiry and respond there to any issues that are raised.’
The allegations come two months after Cardinal John Dew, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Wellington, issued a formal apology for the Church’s actions.
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