The head of the Catholic Church in New Zealand has formally apologised to victims of child abuse on behalf of former bishops and congregational leaders of the Catholic Church in Aotearoa New Zealand.
Cardinal John Dew, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Wellington and Metropolitan of New Zealand, made the comments as part of witness statements from the religious institutions involved in an ongoing inquiry by the Royal Commission.
New Zealand prime minister Jacinda Ardern announced the Abuse in Care inquiry in 2018 in an effort to investigate and resolve claims regarding the physical and sexual abuse of thousands of children and young people in state-run institutions and affiliated religious institutions, such as church-run orphanages, between 1950 and 1999.
The interim report by the commission stated that up to 250,000 people between the ages of 5–17 had for years been victims of horrendous abuse, including electric shock treatment, rape, improper strip searches and vaginal examinations, verbal abuse and racial slurs.
Even five-month-olds were found to be victims of the crime, and as a result of the harm many survivors are now suffering with mental health issues, self harm, post traumatic stress disorder and depression, The Independent reports.
Dew said the church offered ‘no excuses for their actions, or for ours, that have caused you harm.’
He went on to issue an apology, stating: ‘Any kind of abuse is unacceptable and indefensible. We are deeply sorry. We acknowledge that the systems and culture of the church allowed abuse to occur. These systems and culture failed you and must change.’
One survivor, Ken Clearwater, rejected the apology on Friday, March 26, and claimed Dew only made the statement because the Church is caught in the middle of an inquiry.
Per Radio New Zealand, Clearwater described the apology as ‘hollow words,’ adding: ‘They’ve had 25 years to do something and they’ve failed… They’re not apologising for what happened to the victims; they’re apologising because they’ve been caught and it’s now out in the public of New Zealand.’
He continued: ‘It’s happened around the world, finally it’s here on the shores of New Zealand; that’s why they’re apologising. They want to make themselves look good.’
When she announced the inquiry in 2018, Arden described the abuse of children by government-run institutions as ‘unconscionable’.
Per The Guardian, she commented at the time: ‘This is a chance to confront our history and make sure we don’t make the same mistakes again. It is a significant step towards acknowledging and learning from the experiences of those who have been abused in state care.’
Many of the children who were taken into state care were removed from their homes due to issues related to poverty, but due to the abuse suffered they returned to their families severely traumatised.
If you’ve been affected by any of these issues and want to speak to someone in confidence regarding the welfare of a child, contact the NSPCC on 0808 800 5000, 8am–10pm Monday to Friday, 9am–6pm weekends. If you are a child seeking advice and support, call Childline for free on 0800 1111.
Topics: News, Catholic Church, child abuse, Jacinda Ardern, New Zealand, Now, Sexual Assault