by ROWENA OREJANA
AUCKLAND — There is growing confidence in New Zealand that the Catholic Church will listen and act on complaints of sexual abuse.
The national director of the National Office for Professional Standards, Bill Kilgallon, said there is a steady stream of complaints against the Catholic Church related to sexual abuse, and they have been increasing in the past couple of years. Most of the events complained
about took place before 1990.
“It’s a good sign that there are more people coming forward, because it means there is a great confidence that they will be listened to,” Mr Kilgallon said, explaining that it is quite common for people to take a long time to report abuse.
Mr Kilgallon said his office had not yet decided if it would publish the numbers. “I think eventually we will do that,” he said.
Mr Kilgallon said news coverage of the investigation being carried out by the Australian Royal Commission of sexual abuse committed by people from the Church may have encouraged some New Zealand victims to come forward and file their complaints.
He said one of the strengths of the New Zealand Church is that there is only one protocol
for dealing with complaints of sexual, physical or emotional abuse against people in the Church, embodied in the document A Path for Healing.
“A Path for Healing has always been seen as a living document. It was written in 1998. It was revised in 2004, in 2007, in 2010 and we are revising it again this year. Things change. You learn from experience, and the Church here in New Zealand has been good at seeing that and adapting,” Mr Kilgallon said.
He said the Church has taken it a step further by launching the Safe Church programme, a move meant to prevent abuse.
“We are developing a training programme that would be suitable for everybody working at different levels in the Church,” he said.
The training will be available to those who are fulltime in ministry, like priests and religious, as well as people who work with children and young people.
The Office of Professional Standards recently hired Maria Noonan,an educator, to become programme leader. She will develop the training modules, as well as deliver them to
all the dioceses. The programme was launched in Wellington in July.
“This is the Church becoming a bit more pro-active, but still this office and other structures would be dealing with complaints,” he said. “We’re not losing sight of that,
because that is very important for us.”
by ROWENA OREJANA