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This is why i choose no longer to be catholic - i cannot accept the abuse suffered by innocents'

Image: Pope Francis meeting with NZ Catholic Bishops who have since apologised for the abuse suffered by children and the vulnerable

Opinion: Matthew Tukaki

It is the ongoing shame of our system that the crimes and abuse perpetuated against our children are now just being dealt with. As children have become adults they have bought that grief and abuse with them into their latter years, often unresolved and even now unsettled in telling their stories for fear of shame and stigma. The Royal Commission into Abuse in State Care and Faith Based Institutions has torn the plaster off a long festering wound but it also begs the question on whether some of the institutions should have acted much earlier knowing full well that serial abusers were in the midst and often holding positions of power over some of the most vulnerable in our community – children. Over the coming week the Royal Commission will delve into some of the stories of those who were disabled with the Maori hearings soon to begin afresh. But for me, as a Catholic, it was the confession of the very institution I was baptised into that has both saddened and appalled me. Last night, and in some detail, I read through what has been called the “Fact Sheet: Information Gathering Project” which was released to the Commission from a group called Te Ropu Tautoko, coordinating the release of information to the Commission on behalf of the Catholic Church.

My first observation was the burning question in my head of why did it take a Royal Commission to bring these facts to light? Why did it take so long for the Church to act when clearly they knew what was going on and by whom?

As I read through the summary of facts it was like going back in time during my years at Catholic schools.” Allegations of abuse were made against 14% of diocesan clergy who have ministered in the country since 1950.” And "a total of 1,680 reports of abuse were made by 1,122 individuals against Catholic clergy, brothers, nuns, sisters and laypeople from 1950 to the present, with 592 alleged abusers named." And "Almost half the reported abuse involved sexual harm," the report said. "The 1960s and 1970s were the decades with the most abuse reported, with 75% dated before 1990."

The evidence thanks to the Royal Commission in Australia into the same forms of abuse was also clear in so far as those who served the cloth in New Zealand also went on to serve in Australia where the abuse continued often unabated and unchecked – the cases mounted, the abuse was horrific and as a result some victims took their own lives. In actual fact a form of trafficking was allowed to occur whereby Clergy were basically sent away for the crimes they were knowing to have committed with no referrals to police or authorities. And in doing so the abuse continued. In my personal capacity over the years and in roles such as Chair of Suicide Prevention Australia, I have sat down with hundreds of people and listened to their stories and it is absolutely heart wrenching. There are some things that we need to start thinking about as policy makers and as people in positions where we can make meaningful change. The first is moving on some of the initial finding and recommendations that have already been made and begin the framing up of what our response needs to be – that includes compensation for the pain and suffering of those at the hands of faith based institutions. By that I mean not waiting for those organisations to come up with there own schemes but what specially they will be liable for – and to be frank if that involves the sale of assets and properties in their extensive portfolio then so be it. The second is might need to happen when it comes to role that organisations such as the Accident Compensation Corporation might play and the ongoing support individuals and whanau might need when it comes to the ongoing trauma they will suffer that is life long.

But like all things the challenge that we face is drawing a line under what has been the shame of faith based organisations for years – no longer hidden behind closed doors.

But for me I cannot forgive the Catholic Church and that is why I have decided to close the door on that institution and hand back my baptism – I will always have faith in something bigger but I no longer have any faith in the Catholic church.


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