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Monday, 1 July, 2002, 06:04 GMT 07:04 UK
Catholic priests sorry for NZ abuses
Church interior
The Catholic Church worldwide is grappling with scandals

The Roman Catholic Church in New Zealand has delivered an unprecedented public apology to sexual abuse victims.


The deepening realisation of the number of cases of sexual abuse perpetrated by priests is a cause of grief and shame to all of us

Church letter of apology
In a formal letter read and distributed at masses around the country, New Zealand's bishops expressed "grief and shame" over past cases of sexual abuse involving members of the clergy.

The Church has confirmed 38 cases of sexual abuse by priests, brothers and lay church members going back over several decades.

In their letter, the bishops deplored "past mistakes" and the way the Church had handled abuse complaints

"The deepening realisation of the number of cases of sexual abuse perpetrated by priests is a cause of grief and shame to all of us," the letter said.

"The betrayal of trust and the harm that has been done, especially to the young and the vulnerable fills us, your bishops, with a deep sense of sadness and betrayal."

"To those who are victims of abuse, and to their families, we express our deepest regret and most sincere apology."

Confidentiality pledge

The bishops have offered complete confidentiality for people who come forward with new allegations.


A lot of priests and a lot of brothers knew what was going on but they kept quiet about it - and that's wrong

Patrick, alleged abuse victim

And the Church is promising to help complainants take the matter to the police if they want to.

The apology follows recent revelations by the Church about previously secret investigations and payouts by Church authorities.

The Church says it will no longer insist on confidentiality clauses in compensation deals with victims.

Some victims said the apology was too little, too late.

One man who received a secret $30,000 payout from a Catholic religious order after alleging sexual abuse has spurned the apology.

'Hollow words'

The man, identified only as Patrick, told the New Zealand Herald the church statements were "hollow words".

"It's not only me - it's affected so many people," he said.

"A lot of priests and a lot of brothers knew what was going on but they kept quiet about it - and that's wrong."

Patrick, now 51, was sent to Marylands, a Christchurch residential school for slow learners, in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

The newspaper said the school was run by the St John of God order, and it was there, in an upstairs room, that a Catholic brother allegedly sexually abused Patrick.

Brother William Lebler, now in his 80s and living in Australia, has denied the allegations.

The New Zealand Herald reported that when Patrick went forward as an adult with the abuse allegations, St John of God responded by offering him $30,000 on condition he keep quiet about his claims.

See also:

13 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
10 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
15 Jun 02 | Americas
14 Jun 02 | Americas
06 Jun 02 | Asia-Pacific
04 May 02 | Asia-Pacific
21 Mar 02 | Europe
23 Apr 02 | World
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