Royal Commission – Include church say two academics

royal commission

Two academics have called for the inclusion of the Catholic church in the Historical Abuse in State Care Royal Commission.

But Professor David Tombs, the head of the University of Otago’s Theology and Public Issues Centre also says there is no need for the church to wait for the royal commission, and it should start to answer questions with “honesty and candour”.

He said the church’s response in New Zealand has followed an international pattern.

The steps included playing down descriptions of the offending, moving abusive clergy to new parishes, keeping complaints secret and, above all, not telling police.

He said the systemic failure, and the church’s refusal to discuss the cases raised by the Otago Daily Times showed why New Zealand’s upcoming Royal Commission into historic abuse needed to be expanded.

Tombs is the Director role at the Centre and the Howard Paterson Chair of Theology and Public Issues.

He has a longstanding interest in contextual and liberation theologies and is the author of Latin American Liberation Theologies.

His current research focusses on religion, violence, and public theology, and especially on Christian responses to gender-based violence, sexual abuse and torture.

From 2001-2014 he lived and worked in Belfast, Northern Ireland, as an assistant professor of conflict resolution and reconciliation for the Irish School of Ecumenics, Trinity College Dublin.

Desmond Cahill Emeritus Professor of Intercultural Studies of RMIT (the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology University), also criticised the Government for not extending the terms of reference of its historical inquiry into abuse in state care homes to include religious institutions.

He said New Zealand faced the same issues as elsewhere in the world when it came to clericalism and its failure to protect children.

His guess was the incidence of abuse was not as bad in New Zealand as it had been in Australia.

He pointed out colonial New Zealand had a short Royal Commission in August 1900 that examined abuse in a Catholic residential care institution for teenage boys outside Nelson, which “may have had a salutary and mitigating impact for several generations”.

Cahill was a senior consultant on clerical sex abuse in the Catholic Church for the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse,

A spokeswoman for Tracey Martin, the Minister of Internal Affairs, said she could not comment on Cahill’s remarks, as Martin was “actively considering” the recommendations of commission chairman Sir Anand Satyanand on the terms of reference.


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News category: New Zealand.

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