SNAP wants NZ to break diplomatic relations with Holy See

Governor General

SNAP – a group of clergy sex abuse survivors – is urging the Governor General to break diplomatic ties with the Holy See.

In a King’s Birthday appeal, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) Aotearoa wrote an unsigned, open letter to Governor General Dame Cindy Kiro.

The group, under leader Chris Longhurst (pictured), told Kiro New Zealand’s sovereignty is being compromised. They said this is because sex abuse crimes are being concealed.

In their open letter, they maintain that the political privilege and immunity the Government grants to The Holy See enables the Catholic Church to conceal sex abuse crimes and impede justice for thousands of child victims.

“Will you help us to remove this unjust privilege from a foreign church-corporate state which is abusing our nation and people?”

SNAP referred Kiro to the New Zealand Royal Commission of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-based Institutions’ December 2021 interim report.

They said the report found the Church “to be predominant amongst many religious institutions, for its prevalence and sheer scale of predatory, indeed criminal, sexual violence committed against innocent children and vulnerable adults … by … Catholic priests, brothers and nuns in New Zealand.

Immunity questioned

“This same Church enjoys a form of immunity granted since 1973 by the New Zealand Government only to this Church,” SNAP wrote.

SNAP told Kiro they believe the “worst offenders enjoy special privileges and protections.”

The Church has and is using these privileges and protections “to facilitate the concealment and avoidance of accountability for a multitude of very serious crimes,” said SNAP.

The open letter went on to tell Kiro “a political and legal courtesy is facilitating the most repugnant coverup of crimes of sexual violation of helpless and innocent children by Catholic bishops and congregational leaders in New Zealand – and, of course, from the Vatican which uses its political status and religious privilege to facilitate that coverup.

“How can one church enjoy such exceptional privilege to avoid common law and accountability to nearly 1700 officially recognised survivors of such crimes and, we believe, thousands more yet to come forward?” SNAP asked the Governor General.


New Zealand survivors and their whānau cannot trust a system which grants effective political immunity for paedophilic crimes, the open letter continued. They do not wish to be abused by the law as Church leaders abused them.

SNAP went on to ask Kiro “as representative of our sovereign nation” to recommend the Government “rescind the archaic diplomatic protections and privileges which it granted to The Holy See in 1973… operating in our country out of Vatican City State.”

It would be tika for this to happen, SNAP said.

They said these protections and privileges, besides enabling abuse and its coverup in New Zealand, are also unfair, unnecessary and discriminatory.

“They have created whakanoa amongst our people” SNAP wrote.

The open letter then said the Holy See’s ‘diplomatic immunity’ enables the Church to obstruct SNAP members’ rights and entitlement to justice, “among literally thousands of survivors of heinous misdeeds.”

SNAP said it would therefore like Kiro to “lead our country and its people towards freedom from such corruption, towards hohou rongo, the restoration of right relationships, by calling on the Government to repeal those protections and privileges.”


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News category: New Zealand.

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