Cardinal John Dew faces church inquiry after New Zealand police close abuse case

The Catholic Weekly [Archdiocese of Sydney NSW, Australia]

March 8, 2024

The church has opened an inquiry into a “distressing” allegation of an historical offence against New Zealand’s emeritus Cardinal Archbishop of Wellington John Dew after a police investigation closed without any charges laid.

Cardinal Dew, 75, strenuously denies the allegation and will remain suspended from ministry during the Vox Estis Lux Mundi investigation.

He is accused of an instance of sexual abuse against a minor during his time as an assistant priest during the 1970s.

New Zealand police concluded their 10-month inquiry after determining the allegation is unsubstantiated.

In a 7 March statement Cardinal Dew said he was informed of the allegation on 6 May 2023, the day after submitting his retirement, and immediately stepped aside from ministry.

“I stated immediately, and state again now, that there have never been any instances of improper or abusive behaviour in my 48 years of priesthood,” he wrote.

The complaint was lodged with the Church’s National Office for Professional Standards and the country’s Royal Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care.

“This has now been thoroughly investigated by the New Zealand police, others have been interviewed, and sworn affidavits provided to the police prove that these allegations could never have happened,” Cardinal Dew said.

“The police have informed me that this investigation has now been concluded, their file has been closed and no charges will be laid against me.

“From the time that I became a bishop, I have lived by my Episcopal motto, ‘Peace through integrity.’

“Integrity has always meant a great deal to me and the words of that motto have guided my life.”

According to New Zealand media the cardinal had sought to prevent Newshub, a New Zealand television news service, from airing a report on the allegation.

The appeal went to the Supreme Court of New Zealand, where it was dismissed on 5 March.

“Cardinal John retired as Archbishop of Wellington last year on reaching age 75, the normal retirement age for Catholic bishops,” the current Archbishop of Wellington Paul Martin SM wrote in an open letter to the archdiocese on 7 March.

“In accord with our protocols, Cardinal John stood aside from all public church activities when the allegation was brought to the attention of the church.

“Cardinal John has asserted his innocence throughout.

“Inquiries by the church are not run concurrently to those being undertaken by the police.

“Now that the police investigation has concluded, Cardinal John continues to stand aside while the church inquiries proceed.

“This has been a distressing situation for all involved. I would ask that we pray for all those affected and offer support where we can.”

Cardinal Dew said he did not know the person making the allegations and never met him.

“The allegation against me is false, it may come from a well of anguish and grief arising from other reasons,” he wrote.

“I am acutely aware of how distressing this is for many: survivors who have put their trust in me, our church community, and my family and friends. I state once again that all incidents of abuse are wrong.

“I hope and pray that all abuse victims will find peace and healing.”

Cardinal Dew was president of the New Zealand Catholic Bishops’ Conference from 2009-2016, and 2020-2023, and Archbishop of Wellington for nearly 20 years.