Church to take responsibility for healing and redress says Archbishop Martin

responsibility for historical abuse

Catholic Archbishop Paul Martin, the current Apostolic Administrator of the Diocese of Christchurch, accepts that survivors want the church to take responsibility for historical abuse cases and not just leave it to the particular order involved.

He made the comment at the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care inquiry investigating historical abuse by the St John of God Order at Marylands School in Christchurch between 1955 and 1984.

Martin said what was supposed to be a good place for people became a burden for the Church – but nothing like the burden for the victims.

“I want to apologise and I want to convey the deep sadness that I feel and I know our Catholic people do as well, because this was an institution that was supported by the community … and was not actually doing what it should be doing. It is a cause of deep shame and sorrow”.

“We don’t have these institutions anymore. We do take it very seriously and do want to try to be better now and into the future” he said.

When a religious order like St John of God works in a diocese it is done with a bishop’s permission. However, lines of control can become blurred.

Martin said it was at the bishop’s instigation that the St John of God brothers were brought to Christchurch to care for young people. He believed he was setting up something that would meet the boys’ needs.

He explained bishops cannot be closely involved in everything in their diocese. Religious orders take up some of this burden and this was understood by all parties to be the arrangement with St John.

“It was the handing over in good faith and good belief that they would do what they said they would do. As it turns out that wasn’t the case.”

Commission chair Coral Shaw asked Martin if it was ever right to cover up the abuse and ignore it. He replied no.

Shaw also asked him if it was always the responsibility of the bishop and every other religious person who knew about abuse to do something. He answered yes.

Brothers at Marylands who offended against children should have been removed immediately, he agreed.

“I think that was the culture of the time and it was wrong and we have the results and the fruits of that and what a terrible legacy for us to carry as a church, as a society”.

He confirmed to Shaw that the Catholic Church is prepared to take responsibility for the healing and redress for survivors.

“…This is why we asked to be part of this (the Royal Commission process) and we knew that in doing that we were coming with all our history and our past, so as a bishop and one for the future, I am saying yes.”


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News category: New Zealand, Palmerston.

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