NZ clergy members escape abuse charges

3 News, New Zealand/July 25, 2015

Four New Zealand clergy members were never charged with sex offences against children despite the Catholic Church proving they had committed the crimes.

The church has revealed the numbers of complaints coming forward - many historical - as it deals with decades of abuse by members.

According to church figures, 58 fresh complaints were made in the four years to the end of 2014. The oldest case dated back to 1946.

Twenty-four are still being investigated but 26 were accepted as proven to a civil court standard.

They involved 21 priests, nuns or teachers.

Eight of them were still alive but four had not been charged with anything.

That was because victims were not willing to go to police, either because they did not trust them or for fear of the court process, says Bill Kilgallon, a former UK priest and now head of the church's national office, which handles complaints about abuse.

The four are no longer with the church and are not considered a risk.

The numbers of complaints are increasing, with more attention being paid to the issue and publicity around overseas inquiries, such as in Australia and the UK.

Mr Kilgallon said some people had also come forward because they were encouraged by Pope Francis' stance on child abuse.

He said only a small proportion of the church's clergy were responsible for abuse, but he took no comfort in saying that.

"There shouldn't be any. It's gross betrayal of trust, no organisation should be complacent about this issue," he told NZ Newswire.

The government has so far ruled out an inquiry into child abuse by institutions.

However, Mr Kilgallon believed that from overseas examples, it would be beneficial and help prevent further abuse.

"Silence is the worst enemy for people who have been abused."

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