The Kiwi who’s cleaning up the church for Pope Francis



Take the motorway north across Auckland’s Harbour Bridge and in 15 minutes you’ll reach Albany.

There the once-green rolling hills are carpeted with light-industrial business parks – hectare after hectare of grey, low-rise boxes clumped into small groups around a carpark, with a roadside sign vaguely hinting at what might be going on inside.

In one of these grey boxes, a stone’s throw from the Albany Expressway interchange, the occupants include an animal-exporting business, a builder who’s never there, a web design company, and a smiley, white-haired Yorkshireman in his late 60s who occupies a small office with a computer, a meeting table and a view of a roundabout. His name is Bill Kilgallon, and his job is to help dig the Catholic Church out of a deep, ugly hole.

Since the mid-1980s, when the first reports of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests began to appear in the US, the scandal has mushroomed: the American church has spent a reported $3 billion settling lawsuits with victims. Abuse in church-run boys’ school in Ireland was described in a 2009 report as having been at “epidemic” levels. Senior church officials have been sacked for moving known paedophile priests from diocese to diocese, or even between countries. Last year Pope Francis reportedly told an Italian journalist that as many as 1 in 50 members of the Catholic clergy was an abuser.

In New Zealand, meanwhile, at least a dozen priests or members of Catholic orders have been convicted of sexually abusing children.

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