SNAP wants in on Dunedin Diocese commercial agreement

Two survivor groups are at acrimonious odds over the Dunedin diocese’s commercial agreement for helping abuse survivors.

In March, the diocese struck a memorandum of understanding with the Male Survivors of Aotearoa (MSA) support group.

The document details the process where abuse survivors are referred to MSA, which in turn will help survivors access counselling and other services.

The commercial deal includes funding from the diocese.

However, Dr Christopher Longhurst (pictured), founder of the newly established New Zealand branch of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), wants more transparency over the agreement.

Last week he contacted the ODT expressing his concern the signatories were not prepared to make public a copy of the document, saying SNAP wants to use a copy as a template for its agreements.

Longhurst said he emailed Bishop Michael Dooley in July, but MSA replied declining to release the confidential document.

Longhurst again emailed Dooley in September asking him to “desist” from signing the confidential agreements, arguing that in the past secrecy had harmed victims.

Describing itself as New Zealand’s recognised national organisation for male survivors of sexual violence, MSA says it supports more than 1500 survivors across the country and more than 40 in Dunedin.

MSA trustee Tony Chamberlain calls the requests “totally disrespectful and completely inappropriate”.

“We consider the letter (email) a totally offensive affront to the integrity of all concerned”, Chamberlain wrote to SNAP international chief executive, Zach Hiner.

Longhurst maintains the Diocese’s approach is wrong, but stresses his opinion is not a personal attack on Dooley.

Longhurst is a survivor and lecturer at the Wellington based NZ Catholic Bishop’s Catholic Institute.

“The issue is very clear. It’s wrong for any peer support group to get into confidential agreements with the Catholic Church – absolutely wrong”, Longhurst told the ODT.

However MSA Chairman, Philip Chapman defended the agreement and Dooley.

He says the existence of the agreement is not confidential and that Dooley had been totally supportive and clearly concerned for survivors.

Chapman acknowledged the modest financial contribution from the Church.

He said the funding was invested directly in the support services for the referred survivors.

Contacted in Rome, Dooley indicated his happiness with the document.

“This is an agreement between our two organisations with the good of survivors the priority”, he told the ODT.

At the time he started SNAP NZ, Longhurst told CathNews that all it takes to heal is a little support.

“None of our members are experts. We’re just survivors helping survivors”, he said.


Additional reading

News category: New Zealand.

Tags: , , , , ,