24 Aug 2018

Bishop's apology over clergy sex abuse prompts more complaints

1:32 pm on 24 August 2018

More people who were abused by a priest and Christian Brother in Otago when they were children have come forward to the Catholic Church.

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Photo: 123RF

This follows a public apology by the Bishop of Dunedin, Michael Dooley, for abuse committed by priest Magnus Murray and the late Des Fay.

Bishop Dooley issued an open letter saying revelations in the Otago Daily Times which exposed abuses, and the cover-up of it by the Church, have been "distressing".

"These past few weeks there have been considerable publicity about sexual abuse carried out in our Diocese, by Magnus Murray, a priest who formerly worked in our Diocese, and Des Fay who taught as a Christian Brother in Dunedin," Bishop Michael Dooley wrote in the letter.

"This has been shocking and painful for many of us to hear and the harm caused to victims is particularly distressing."

These two clergymen were the subject of allegations by the other victims who had recently come forward for the first time, but no matters in relation to any other cleric had been raised with him so far, Bishop Dooley told RNZ.

This comes at the same time as the Pope's vow to break the Church's culture of covering up child sex abuse, in response to an expose in the US.

"I think it's great," Bishop Dooley said of the Pope's stance.

"It's exactly the sort of message we need to do that and to put in processes that enable that to be done."

There had been "overwhelming support" from parishioners for what he was saying, he said.

"Quite a number have said it's really important to be upfront."

His letter said the church's handling of the offending had come under scrutiny "and we are open to any investigation to uncover the truth".

"I apologise as Bishop for the suffering endured by victims and their families through this abuse.

"These are crimes that damage us all in our Church community."

He encouraged any other victims to contact the Church or the police.

The ODT has reported that a Dunedin mother, who is unnamed, blames her son's suicide on being abused by Br Fay.

These developments further underlined the need for the Catholic Church to be included in the Royal Commission of Inquiry into abuse in state care, Bishop Dooley said.

"That's been our position and, in my mind, it's probably firming up, for me, more now."

The government has yet to issue the terms for the inquiry - it has been considering this since May - but previously made clear it did not want non-state groups included.

"It's not my place to give the terms of reference ... [but] whatever needs to be looked at for a proper investigation needs to be open to be looked at," Bishop Dooley said.