The Archbishop of Wellington, Cardinal John Dew, today addressed the Royal Commission inquiry into abuse in care in Auckland, having first spoken last year. He reiterated the apology issued on behalf of the Catholic Church in March 2021.
“Abuse is wrong, it should never be part of the church. Me and all of us are ashamed of it. We are working hard to put in place safeguarding practices and we will continue to work on that,” a he said. “We will continue to work on what we have discovered during this royal commission.”
The mission of the Catholic Church today was to build a safe church, Cardinal Dew said.
Dr Paul Flanagan, a lay member of the Catholic Church‘s National Safeguarding and Professional Standards Committee, told the inquest that breach of trust was never acceptable.
“Such a breach of trust in Catholic faith communities is shameful. It is shameful that people in positions of authority who might have known about the abuses did not act on behalf of the victims.
“Whether it’s bishops, priests, brothers, sisters or even parents, the level of abuse we are experiencing is painful for all of us, so we must support those who come forward to disclose the abuse that have been inflicted on them and support them in all the processes.
The former Catholic Bishop of Auckland has come under intense questioning during the investigation into the recommendation of a priest, who had three abuse allegations against him, for a teaching job. Bishop Patrick Dunn was responding to complaints about Tongan priest Sateki Raass. Raass was found guilty in March 2019 of assaulting a person under the age of 16 and was sentenced to 100 hours of community service. He then resigned from the priesthood.
He was a priest under the control of the Bishop of Tonga but worked in the Diocese of Auckland.
Inquest attorney Katherine Anderson asked Bishop Dunn why he recommended Raass for a teaching position nearly two years after his conviction.
“The main [of the school] was also aware of the situation and felt it would not be a problem,” Bishop Dunn said. The teaching position did not emerge. Bishop Dunn said in retrospect that Raass taking up a teaching position would have been unwise. “In a way, yes, but on the other hand, he’s quite a talented man and he comes from a family of teachers.”
Anderson asked the bishop if he understood that his views could be taken as unwavering support for Raass.
“You know that you had personal knowledge of three reports of abuse and you knew, at least in 2013, that he had been suspended in Tonga. It’s a really strong sense of commitment that you have to that person,” Anderson said.
Bishop Dunn replied: “It’s not a strong feeling of support for him in itself, but throughout my life I have tried to help people who have had convictions to get their lives back on their feet. “
He didn’t think it was reckless, but maybe it wasn’t the right time, he said.
Raass was sent to live in a rectory near a Catholic school. The headmaster of the school wrote to Bishop Dunn asking why this had been allowed.
“The actual choice of Balmoral was made within hours, so he had to move somewhere,” Bishop Dunn said. “The police had no objection to this decision. Later the bail conditions were changed. I don’t think the police ever considered Sateki Raass a threat to primary school children.
Bishop Dunn said he was kept out of the complaint as it was investigated by the church’s professional standards committee.
“So the complaint went to them and I was always kept away from the actual complaint, so I wasn’t an investigator so to speak.”