New Zealand Catholic church investigating 5 more historic sex abuse complaints

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

NZ Catholic church investigates 5 abuse complaints

WELLINGTON, New Zealand — New Zealand’s Roman Catholic Church said Thursday it is investigating five new complaints of sexual abuse of children from at least 20 years ago.

The revelation of fresh inquiries comes as the church worldwide is rocked by allegations of child sex crimes committed by clergy — and days after New Zealand Roman Catholic Archbishop John Dew said the allegations have placed the church in crisis.

Former Police Commissioner John Jamieson said he was investigating the five new historic sex abuse allegations against Catholic Church members in New Zealand.

The five complainants did not want to take their cases to the police and provided the church with information confidentially, he said.

Jamieson, who is not a church member, said he had reassessed some 35 child sex abuse allegations against Roman Catholic clergy over the past five years.

“But these five cases are new,” he said, adding that some of the alleged abusers are still alive and in the country.

The church commissioned Jamieson to investigate such complaints from the outset to ensure they were handled appropriately and that the complainant was satisfied with the process.

He told National Radio the church recommended that any complainants tell police about criminal activity, but that some accusers did not want police to investigate their case. No statue of limitations applies to such cases under New Zealand law.

The national manager of the Male Survivors of Sexual Abuse Trust, Ken Clearwater, said church-run investigations do more harm than good for abuse victims.

“I’ve been involved in quite a few of the investigations, I find them very traumatizing for the victims,” he said.

“I think the processes and procedures that are set up are there to suit the church, not the victims,” Clearwater said. “Most of the time the victims feel as though they’re actually the perpetrator, the way that the process goes.”

Only a government inquiry would reveal the extent of the abuse, he said, adding he had pushed for such an inquiry for six years.

“At the end of the day, it needs to be set up for the victims and not for the church,” Clearwater said.

Terry Carter, 43, one New Zealand victim of a pedophile priest, also called for an inquiry into the church which, he said, protects abusive priests by moving them from country to country.

“To pretend it’s just an Irish problem or an American problem is rubbish. It’s in every country they are in,” he said. “A lot of priests … have actually been moved to other countries to pretend it didn’t happen (and) where they carry on reoffending.”

“These pedophiles must be laughing because they’ve never had to stop sexually abusing children,” he told National Radio.

Carter was abused by pedophile priest Allan Woodcock, who was jailed for seven years after being found guilty on 21 charges of child sexual abuse that occurred over a decade to 1987.

At the weekend, Archbishop Dew wrote to parishioners apologizing for the “humiliation, embarrassment and disappointment” resulting from continuing reports of child abuse by priests in several countries.

“I think as more revelations come to light and people hear of that, it has put the church in a crisis,” he said later.

The situation had worsened as church members heard that cases in many countries may have been mishandled, Archbishop Dew said, adding it was still possible to move beyond the crisis.

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