Catholic Church abuse survivors group says Pope ignored their letter

Radio New Zealand [Wellington, New Zealand]

March 27, 2023

A support group for survivors of abuse within the Catholic Church has sent an open letter to the pope claiming a coverup, secrecy and denial of abuse by the church in this country.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, SNAP, said the church’s redress process was secretive and denied a survivor’s right to natural justice.

SNAP said it wrote to Pope Francis in September last year, but never got a reply.

”We informed you of ongoing coverup and denial of credible complaints of clerical abuse and child sexual assault through a secretive A Path to Healing – Te Houhanga Rongo redress process.’

”We are disappointed to not have had the courtesy of a reply or acknowledgement of our letter.”

SNAP is calling on the pope to instruct church leaders in New Zealand to initiate an urgent, independent and transparent external audit of its redress and safeguarding system.

”While we are pleased this audit might proceed, unfortunately, in the meantime the situation has worsened due to the continued denials of evident claims by survivors on account of a process that remains in the strictest secrecy.

”As a result, in the New Zealand Catholic Church victims and survivors remain without justice and healing, abusers remain in ministry, children remain at risk and your church continues to be brought into disrepute by such an unjust system.”

SNAP said its open letter is sent in the hope the pope will hear survivors and compel the leaders of the Catholic Church in New Zealand to respect the Pope’s calls for openness and transparency, and change the system that permits abuse, coverup, secrecy and denial.

Catholic Church director for the National Office for Professional Standards Virginia Noonan last week said the names of the Complaints Assessment Committee are not currently published.

“The National Office for Professional Standards appoints independent external professionals to inquire into complaints of abuse. The Complaints Assessment Committee reviews the evidence gathered in that process. The final decision on whether to uphold a complaint is made by the relevant church authority, either a bishop or a congregational leader.”

She said many complaints are upheld, and the Catholic Church and the National Office for Professional Standards regularly review the relevant protocols and practices.

”The views of survivors and their advocates are actively sought in these reviews.”

The church declined to reveal how many complaints it had dealt with, or how many had been upheld.

In January, the New Zealand Catholic Church issued new guidelines on dealing with abuse complaints.