Bishop Steve Lowe should have apologised

Steve Lowe

Against a background of ongoing legal matters, Bishop Steve Lowe, the apostolic administrator of the Hamilton Diocese, is accused of not being pastoral enough in his response to a victim of clergy abuse.

The Waikato Times reports a woman from within the Hamilton Catholic diocese saying that in a meeting with Lowe, she told him she was raped by a Catholic priest who had visited her house to perform a blessing.

In the course of the conversation, the Times discloses the woman says Lowe told her, “SNAP have blown things out of proportion at the Royal Commission [of Inquiry into Abuse in Care].”

The comments left her feeling “the church has let me down,” she says.

“I was shaking, and it caused me to cry because the Bishop brought back a feeling that what the priest did to me was not significant.

“When survivors speak up against the abuse then the Bishop thinks this is out of proportion. I would like to know what a proportionate response is to being raped by a priest, as I was.”

With legal matters continuing, the Waikato Times sought an interview with Lowe about the woman’s experience but says the diocese responded with an emailed statement from Lowe.

Quoting from part of the email, The Times reports Lowe indicated he had been “actively helping [the woman] in my role as Bishop.

“I am not able to breach the confidentiality of my work with her by discussing it in public.”

However, the abuse victim complained to a Catholic abuse Survivor network (SNAP) about Lowe and his response to her disclosure.

Against the background of ongoing legal matters, SNAP’s national leader Dr Christopher Longhurst is looking to Lowe for a more pastoral resolution to his comment and the effect it had on the woman.

“I am sorry that Bishop Lowe has not been upfront with an explanation as to what he said,” says Longhurst. “I do not believe this has anything to do with confidentiality. Privacy and confidentiality pertain to personal information, not to process or requests for clarification.”

“To me, the Bishop’s response seems like an example of the three Ds of avoiding accountability: deny, deflect, diffuse. A straightforward and honest response to our request for clarification would have been more appropriate,” Longhurst adds.

“Stonewalling, silence and denial are the constant response from this Bishop,” says Longhurst.

Longhurst feels an apology to the woman “would have been more appropriate and is still warranted”.


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News category: New Zealand.

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