Priest critical of church’s response to abuse


Fr Vaughan Leslie says the church’s response, within New Zealand and overseas, had helped fuel the “abuse crisis” now engulfing the church.

Leslie is the parish priest of Alexandra, a town in Central Otago, New Zealand.

The Church had failed to remove men from ministry when credible complaints were received, and “misguided protectionism” had occurred “at the expense of truth and justice,” he said.

The response also highlighted the need for culture change within the church hierarchy, here and overseas, to put an end to a situation in which “in-groups of clergy hold all the reins of power.

“I speak out because I love the Catholic Church, but not always the way she is run.

“Saying this as a priest could well challenge some members of the Catholic hierarchy, but not doing so makes me guilty of saying the status quo is OK — which I do not believe [will do] if we are to regain our credibility, particularly in the moral area.”

Leslie, a priest for 18 years in Otago, Southland and the North Island, also has a masters degree in psychology from the United States-based Divine Mercy University and is a member of the Catholic Psychotherapy Association.

He told Otago Daily Times Insight the sexual abuse crisis was “a very trying time” for the Catholic Church and “isn’t just going to go away quickly.”

Insight has been running a series of stories about priests, brothers and teachers who have abused children in the Otago region.

Leslie said sexual offending by some priests had created suspicion of others — himself included — within the community, prompting him to proactively reassure friends he was not an offender.

He hopes to see the church included in an expanded Royal Commission when the terms of reference were eventually confirmed by the Government.


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News category: New Zealand.

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