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Catholic Church reveals scale of abuse claims against New Zealand clergy since 1950

by Heather Preston

A new report has highlighted the scale of abuse accusations in New Zealand's Catholic church over the past 72 years.

Consolidated data from New Zealand's Catholic church has revealed 14 per cent of its diocesan clergy have been involved in allegations of abuse towards children and adults since 1950.

The research, undertaken by the Church at the request of the Royal Commission on Abuse in Care, documents 1680 reports of abuse by 1122 individuals against Catholic clergy and laity.

14 per cent of allegations were reported against Catholic diocesan clergy, who worked for a bishop and not a congregation while eight per cent were against male congregational members and three per cent against female congregation members.

Almost half the reported abuse involved sexual harm against a child, recorded at their highest levels during the 1960s and 1970s.

The information collated from across the country's six Catholic dioceses as well as 43 Catholic religious institutes showed that of the 1680 complaints, 1350 involved children. 

164 involved adults, with the age of a further 167 not established by the research. 

The allegations of abuse include records of 428 Catholic parishes, 370 Catholic schools and 67 further institutions where physical, sexual, and abuse and neglect were reported.

Cardinal John Dew, President of the NZ Catholic Bishops Conference responded to the statistics as "horrifying". 

"These statistics on abuse in the Catholic Church going back to 1950 are horrifying and something we are deeply ashamed of. I am grateful that so much work has been done in researching the details and making them public. As we continue to respond to the Royal Commission into Abuse and we build a safer Church for everyone, I firmly hope that facts like these will help us to face the sad reality. The Church will learn from this and affirm its commitment to the work of safeguarding."

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