WELLINGTON, New Zealand — The Catholic Church in New Zealand welcomed a Nov. 3 announcement by the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care that it had scheduled six days in February for hearings on evidence of abuse at two Catholic-run schools.
Catherine Fyfe, chair of Te Ropu Tautoko — the group coordinating Catholic engagement with the Royal Commission — welcomed the announcement and said the Hospitaller Brothers of St. John of God and Tautoko have been working diligently since last year to cooperate with the inquiry.
The hearings concern Marylands School, a residential school for children with learning difficulties, run between the mid-1950s and 1984 by the St. John of God Brothers, and Hebron Trust, an organization for troubled youths run by one of the brothers. Both were in Christchurch.
“We have been working with the Royal Commission to ensure that our response has been as timely and comprehensive as possible, to honor those harmed at Marylands,” Fyfe said.
“We see this inquiry and the wider work of the Royal Commission as a way for the Catholic bishops and religious congregations to positively engage in this important process of listening, acknowledging, learning and reaffirming our commitment to safeguarding the vulnerable in society.”
Fyfe reinforced the church’s ongoing encouragement to survivors of abuse in the care of the Catholic Church to share their experiences with the Royal Commission.
The New Zealand Catholic bishops and congregational leaders sought to have the church included in the work of the Royal Commission, which was originally established to investigate abuse of children in state care.
The Royal Commission said it would investigate — among other issues — the immediate, long-term and intergenerational impacts on victims and survivors of abuse at Marylands, as well how it affected their families and communities. It said it would take into account Pacific and Maori cultural norms and values when considering the impact of abuse.
The commission will look at the nature and extent of abuse of children and young people in the care by individuals associated with the St. John of God Brothers, including, but not limited to, religious brothers, visiting clergy or religious. It also will consider the extent to which structural, systemic or other factors relevant to the Catholic Church caused or contributed to the abuse, or affected responses to complaints of abuse at Marylands.