Catholic Church welcomes Royal Commission’s Marylands School inquiry

The Catholic Church in Aotearoa New Zealand welcomes publication of details of the case study inquiry into the former Marylands School in Christchurch announced by the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care.

Marylands was a residential school for children with learning difficulties, run between the mid-1950s and 1984 by the Brothers Hospitallers of St. John of God, a Catholic religious congregation of brothers, initially in Middleton before it moved to Halswell.

The Royal Commission this week published the details of its Marylands case study. Marylands is one of a number of individual inquiries the Royal Commission will hold into state and faith-based institutions as part of its overall investigation into historical child abuse in care institutions. It has yet to name a date for the Marylands hearing.

It will investigate “the nature and extent of abuse that occurred at Marylands, why it happened, and the impacts of abuse that may have occurred at the hands of priests, religious or lay employees of the Church. It will investigate whether there are any systemic, structural or other factors which contributed to the abuse occurring and the adequacy of the response by the Catholic Church to allegations of abuse.”

Catherine Fyfe, chair of Te Rōpū Tautoko – the group coordinating Catholic engagement with the Royal Commission – welcomed the announcement and said the Church and Tautoko would work supportively and diligently to do everything possible to co-operate.

“We will work with the Royal Commission and the leadership of the brothers of St John of God to ensure that our response is as timely and comprehensive as possible, to honour those harmed at Marylands,” Ms 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.”

Brother Timothy Graham OH, the Sydney-based Provincial of the St John of God order, said the Marylands inquiry was an acknowledgement of those who were harmed in the care of the brothers. “The inquiry is another chance for the survivors’ voices to be heard, and for the brothers – indeed all of us -- to listen and learn.”

The New Zealand Catholic bishops and Catholic congregational leaders sought to have the Church included in the work of the Royal Commission, which when first established was limited to abuse of children in state care.

The Catholic Bishops Conference and the Congregational Leaders’ Conference Aotearoa New Zealand set up Te Rōpū Tautoko to ensure the Church provides a co-ordinated and co-operative response to the Royal Commission from all the many dioceses, congregations and institutions of the Church.