Vatican’s abuse point man praises media role in NZ interview

The priest dubbed the Vatican’s point man for clerical sexual abuse says the media did the Church a service by revealing abuse scandals.

In an interview with the Sunday Star Times, American Msgr Robert Oliver praised the media’s role, echoing a tribute he paid early last year.

“It’s hard for any group over time to keep up the kind of energy that’s needed to do this work,” he said.

“What the media has been doing was to keep that energy up . . .”

Msgr Oliver was in New Zealand at the invitation of the National Office for Professional Standards late last month.

The promoter of justice at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, he spoke at a training day in Wellington run by the Church.

Msgr Oliver told the SST the Church has made many mistakes historically, especially in not listening to victims.

“We had to change very much from those days. Is it true to say we are lagging behind others? I think the unfortunate truth is just about everyone was not listening to victims and not responding.”

Msgr Oliver said statistical modelling suggests the number of paedophile priests has dropped below 1 per cent now and only a “very small number” are true paedophiles.

Pope Francis has said abusive priests number 2 per cent.

Serving in Boston when a major abuse crisis was exposed in 2002, Msgr Oliver said at the time he had no idea this was happening.

“When you first hear about abuse, the reaction is ‘it’s just not possible, how would an adult harm a child’ and then you quickly come to realise not only does it happen, but it is frightening how often it does happen.”

As a canon lawyer, then Fr Oliver served as director of Boston’s Office for Investigations from 2002 to 2005 and was part of a training team for implementation of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ charter for the protection of children and young people from 2003 to 2008.

He is not interested in winning a PR battle over the Church’s image, but rather in making concrete improvements and in hearing from victims’ groups about these.

“You realise what this [abuse] does to people . . . how deeply harmed they are.”


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