Independent investigation into Dunedin Catholic Bishop John Kavanagh

An independent investigation into the way Dunedin Catholic Bishop John Kavanagh handled sexual abuse complaints has begun.

The New Zealand bishops’ conference (NZBC) says these concerns involved a number of victims of abuse in the Dunedin Diocese who had complained that Kavanagh had not properly dealt with their complaints of sexual abuse by priests.

The bishops’ concerns about Kavanagh were referred to the Vatican late last year, in line with Pope Francis’ 2019 decree, “Vos estis lux mundi.”

New Zealand’s Metropolitan Archbishop, Cardinal John Dew has now asked the National Office for Professional Standards (NOPS) to look into Kavanagh’s response to these complaints while he was bishop from 1957 until he died in 1985.

NOPS is the Church’s complaints body. It, in turn, appointed Christchurch senior investigator Micky Earl to conduct the investigation.

Dew says Earl will focus on finding out what information Kavanagh had regarding complaints of sexual abuse. He will also look into whether Kavanagh met his obligations as bishop in how he responded to and managed those complaints.

One of the priests Kavanagh was allegedly told about was Magnus Murray, who offended against boys in Dunedin from the 1950s to the 1970s.

Newspaper reports say Murray’s offences were brought to Kavanagh’s attention in 1972.

Kavanagh’s response was to move Murray to Australia. He later allowed him to resume public ministry in the North Island. New victims have since emerged from that period.

Abuse survivors, their supporters and a group of former pupils have called for the name of Dunedin’s Kavanagh College – named after the late bishop – to be changed.

Kavanagh College Board of Trustees chairwoman Barb Long has declined to comment about any decisions about renaming the school at this stage. This is because the investigation is independent and the school was not part of it, she says.

Dew is also waiting for the outcome of the investigation and its recommendations. He says these could help form the basis of any decision to rename the college.

Anyone who has any concerns regarding inappropriate behaviour in a Church setting should contact NOPS to report their concerns, Dew says.

“NOPS operates independently of diocesan and Congregation structures. It contracts professional, experienced and independent third-party investigators to conduct investigations on its behalf.

“We are committed to a safe environment for all within the Church community. Any form of misconduct or inappropriate behaviour in the Church community is not acceptable.”

NOPS can be contacted by free phone on 0800 114 622, or by email at  Go here for the NOPS website, which includes the latest edition of A Path to Healing.

In addition to contacting NOPS, the Church also encourages victims of abuse to contact the police or the Royal Commission on Abuse in Care.


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News category: New Zealand.

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