Pasifika abuse survivor calls for change in Catholic church

Radio New Zealand [Wellington, New Zealand]

August 6, 2021

By Sela Jane Hopgood

A survivor of abuse in a faith-based institution is appalled at what she calls the Catholic church’s mishandling of victims’ stories of abuse.

Frances Tagaloa has called out the Catholic church to change their processes when dealing with survivors, following the recent Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry Pacific investigation hearing.

This comes after a couple of Pacific survivors gave their testimony at the recent Abuse in Care Royal Commission of Inquiry Pacific investigation hearing in South Auckland, including from a spokesperson named Ms CU.

Tagaloa said as a survivor she sought to emphasise how appalled she was at the Catholic church’s attempts to silence Ms CU, through a lack of communication, support and information along with protecting the perpetrator and not providing adequate monitoring or safeguarding over Fr Sosefo Sateki Raas whose conduct was under the spotlight at the inquiry.

“It illustrates a pattern that is not unique,” she said.

“These themes of the Catholic church’s mishandling of victim survivors were reflected in another testimony given by Rupene Amato at the Pacific investigation hearing and are common to many other survivors.

“It seems that the Catholic church is struggling to help victim survivors and are mishandling the situation.”

Protection for abusers

Tagaloa heard Ms CU’s evidence and was shocked that the Bishop of Auckland, Bishop Patrick Dunn, described Fr Sosefo Sateki Raass’ offence as “some inappropriate text messaging” to Ms CU.

“This is endorsing Sateki’s self-assessment that what he had done was a ‘silly mistake’ as he had told media and not the heinous abuse it was,” Tagaloa said.

“The ‘inappropriate text messaging’ and the ‘silly mistake’ has destroyed a Tongan family, and Ms CU gave quite clear and moving evidence of how as an extended family, they have found the actions of the Catholic church, in particularly Bishop Dunn, devastating.

“It has affected how Ms CU and her family are in their own spiritual development and how they view the church and life – that’s very upsetting.”

Tagaloa described the processes in which the Catholic church go about resolving cases of abuse within the church as re-traumatising.

She said the church needs to change their approach towards survivors, and lead with compassion, adding that a change in leadership is required.

“Bishop Dunn needs to take care of survivors and put survivors first, let their voices be heard.

“We need to know that the Catholic church will protect survivors and not perpetrators – unfortunately what we’re seeing is the opposite and that needs to change,” she said.

“At one meeting Bishop Dunn had with Ms CU, he accepted Sateki’s denial of a biological son, a widely known fact, and issued a warning not to engage with the media.

“This is unacceptable. Bishop Dunn had the opportunity to make things better but, as what appears to be a common pattern from survivor stories, he acted to the public shame of the church he represents.”