Well-know priest and theolgian was a child abuser

child abuser

Michael Shirres, a Catholic priest and theologian who died in 1997, has been exposed as a child abuser.

He worked with Māori communities in the Far North before becoming a University of Auckland theologian.

He also wrote and published books about Māori spirituality.

The Catholic Bishop of Auckland, Pat Dunn, told the New Zealand Herald that the church had received five complaints in 1993 relating to Shirres’ sexual abusing.

Annie Hill was one of those abused; she is concerned about the other victims, particularly in Northland.

She is encouraging other victims to come forward.

Hill said she made a complaint about the abuse to a priest in 1993 and thought the matter had been dealt with.

So she was shocked when, in 1995, she discovered Shirres would be talking about Māori spirituality at the school where she taught.

Dunn said the church backed Hill on her call for victims to come forward.

It would do all it could to help them, he said.

“We can’t rewrite the past but we’re very anxious to support people now if they are still bruised by this horrific abuse that occurred when they were children,” Dunn said.

The church became aware of Shirres’s offending in the 1990s – about 20 years after it happened – and he went through an independent sex offenders programme.

“At that time the policy with historic cases, as distinct from current cases, was to prioritise the wishes of the complainant,” Dunn said.

He said the church’s practice was to encourage complainants to go to the police.

The Dominican Order, of which Shirres was a member, worked to support those who had come forward.

“We respected their wishes and realised that if we did not, people would not be prepared to come forward.”

Shirres was withdrawn from pastoral ministry in late 1993 and entered into the Safe Network programme to address his predatory behaviour.

He continued lecturing at the Catholic Institute of Theology and the University of Auckland until May 1994.

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News category: New Zealand.

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