Churches’ commitment to waiving confidentiality agreements questioned

confidentiality agreements

Advocates on behalf of people abused in church institutions say the churches are complicating the process of waiving confidentiality agreements

RNZ asked the president of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference,  Bishop Patrick Dunn, whether bishops had shown a “lack of moral authority by  not publicly repudiating the clauses and whether they had stepped up in the way Pope Francis had instructed.”

(In August last year, Pope Francis released A letter to the People of God, which condemned the silencing and shaming of child sex abuse victims by church bodies.)

Dunn replied in an email saying:

“The New Zealand bishops have never in recent memory insisted on confidentiality clauses for abuse survivors.

Regarding the many other agencies of the church in New Zealand, and bearing in mind the importance of an accurate and speedy response from all of us to the Royal Commission, our representative body to give this coordinated response is our agency Te Rōpū Tautoko (TRT). I have passed your request to them.”

The chair of TRT, Catherine Fyfe told Stuff a waiver is important for survivors who engage with the Royal Commission.

She said TRT had recommended confidentiality waivers be issued, but that groups, which included religious orders exercised autonomy as separate legal entities in civil law and canon law.

She said bishops didn’t have the authority to decide for them.

“Each organisation needs to consider the recommendation and feedback to us.”

“We are aiming to finalise prior to public hearings,” she said.

Fyfe said many, if not most, settlements dioceses and congregations made did not contain confidentiality clauses.

Dr Murray Heasley​​​, a spokesperson for Survivors of Abuse in Faith-based Institutions said it was ridiculous for TRT to suggest sixty or more Catholic entities needed to be consulted.

He said some of the Catholic entities referred to had minuscule memberships, and possibly included orders of nuns or monks that were never in a position of caring for children.

“What they’re trying to do is put out a phoney, fake diversion.”


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News category: New Zealand, Top Story.

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