Abuse expert: Catholic bishops risk losing all credibility
Extract from Michael Hall, Digital Journalist, RadipoNZ,1 January 2019
A leading world expert on clerical child sex abuse told RNZ that if Te Rōpū Tautoko remained top-heavy with Church officials it would "only do the bidding of the bishops" and would have no credibility. Dr Peter Wilkinson, a former priest who acted as adviser to the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, made his comments after the group was formed last month to provide a co-ordinated response to the commission from all its dioceses, religious orders and institutions in New Zealand. The seven-person Te Rōpū Tautoko body was announced by the Church hierarchy after the government extended the terms of reference of the Royal Commission's state abuse inquiry in November to include faith-based institutions. A similar group, the Truth Justice and Healing Council, was established by Australian bishops to do the same job in 2012, when the government across the Tasman announced its own abuse inquiry, which released its findings in December 2017. That 12-person group was made up three clergy and nine Catholic professionals, including a psychiatrist and a number of academics with expertise and understanding of trauma. It was chaired by former Supreme Court judge, the Hon Neville Owen. Its chief executive was Dr Francis Sullivan, former secretary general of the Australian Medical Association. In contrast, Te Rōpū Tautoko is made up of six Church officials, including heads of religious orders in which there have been accusations of covering up abuse, and just one layperson - chairwoman Catherine Fyfe, who specialises in human resources management. Dr Wilkinson said the Catholic Church now risked losing any credibility it had left if it decided to respond to the Royal Commission in a less-than-genuine manner. "One thing that the New Zealand hierarchy will have to understand, and quick, is that despite what they may think, they probably have already lost a great deal of their credibility," he said. "If they try to duck and cover, use the 'bad apples' defence, heap all the blame on their predecessors, insist that it is the media who are the cause of their troubles, or try to obfuscate, they will end up like the bishops here in Australia, who have lost all trust - from ordinary Catholics, from the general public, and from the politicians." He also warned of dire consequences if the bishops established a body to liaise with the commission that was top heavy with Church officials. "It will only do the bishops' bidding, it too will have no credibility," he said. "Whoever is appointed its CEO has to be a person of complete integrity, courageous, and capable to standing up to the bishops. "This person, and the members of the Council who support that person, must also be persons of courage and integrity."....(More). Photo: RadioNZ 20190101 Peter Wilkinson.