The Catholic Church in Aotearoa New Zealand welcomes the announcement by the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care of dates for the hearing of evidence about abuse at the Marylands School and Hebron Trust in Christchurch.
The Royal Commission has scheduled six days in February 2022 in Auckland for the hearings.
Marylands was a residential school for children with learning difficulties, run between the mid-1950s and 1984 by the Brothers of St John of God, a Catholic religious institute. Hebron was a later organisation for troubled youths run by a St John of God brother. The commission has also added St Joseph’s Orphanage, which was run by the Sisters of Nazareth and was next door to Marylands, to this part of its inquiry.
Catherine Fyfe, chair of Te Rōpū Tautoko – the group coordinating Catholic engagement with the Royal Commission – welcomed the announcement and said the St John of God Brothers and Tautoko have been working supportively and diligently since last year to co-operate with the inquiry on Marylands.
“We have been working with the Royal Commission to ensure that our response has been 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.”
Br Timothy Graham OH, the Sydney-based Provincial of the Oceania Province the St John of God Brothers, said: “Any form of abuse, misconduct or inappropriate behaviour in the Church is not acceptable. The Brothers welcome the announcement of the hearing date and have been preparing to participate in the listening process of the hearing as well as providing information to the commission. The Brothers of St John God reaffirm our apology to all those harmed at Marylands.”
Sister Margaret O’Keefe, Regional Superior, Australasia, for the Sisters of Nazareth, says: “Any report of abuse in one of our institutions causes us shame and grief. The Sisters of Nazareth take our history and the work we do now to support survivors of abuse seriously. We are now very aware that the Commission plans to expand the scope of the Marylands hearing. We have not yet had a chance to prepare any material in relation to St Joseph’s Orphanage but are hoping to participate by listening to survivors and providing any information to the Commission that we have on these matters. The Sisters of Nazareth unreservedly apologise to any resident of St Joseph’s who has been harmed in any way.”
The New Zealand Catholic bishops and 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.
Ms 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.