NZ Catholic Church still keeping issues behind closed doors

Radio NZ

March 23, 2018

By Phil Pennington

Analysis – The sexual abuse of women by men in positions of power takes many guises, writes Phil Pennington.

Where it occurs in the Catholic Church, and priests are the perpetrators, Cardinal John Dew, who is also bishop of Wellington, has been uncompromising in the past in calling it out.

It was “professional misconduct by means of sexual abuse” for any priest to have a sexual relationship with a parishioner, he has said.

“It is always, in the case of a member of the clergy, his professional and pastoral responsibility to recognise the vulnerability of the person he’s ministering to and to take appropriate steps to avoid emotional, physical and sexual involvement.”

There was always a power imbalance between priests and their parishioners, and “meaningful consent” could not apply.

“It is a sad reality that there have been many instances of sexual abuse, this is always a betrayal of trust, it is always an inappropriate use of power and control that a priest …has.”

Cardinal John Dew – the Catholic Archbishop of Wellington – wrote that back in 1996 in a Church paper, following revelations that a bishop in Scotland had been living with a divorcee and had fathered a son with another woman.

His spokesperson this week told RNZ that “the Cardinal stands by his comments”.

But two decades on, Cardinal Dew is not so forthcoming on the related issue of priests who father children.

Others have spoken up, with Pope Francis saying he would be inclined to tell a priest “he must leave his priestly ministry and take care of his child”.

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