NZ Catholic Church welcomes declaration from Pope Francis on abuse secrecy

The Catholic Church of Aotearoa/New Zealand welcomes the declaration by Pope Francis that the 2001 Church rule of "Pontifical Secrecy" no longer applies in cases of the sexual abuse of minors, says Cardinal John Dew, Metropolitan Archbishop of New Zealand.

“We welcome this declaration by Pope Francis," Cardinal Dew says in a statement.  "The issue of ‘Pontifical Secrecy’ regarding sexual abuse has not been an issue in New Zealand because the Church here is strongly committed to cooperating with the police and judicial authorities in such matters.

“The fact there have been criminal convictions for clerical abuse in New Zealand dating back to at least the 1990s demonstrates the willingness of the Church to share information with the relevant authorities.

“But the Pope’s new instruction sends a clear message around the world that the Church is committed to openness and transparency in matters of abuse.

“The New Zealand Church’s complaints process provides that we will encourage and support complainants in sexual abuse cases to go to the police.

“Well before this new instruction from Pope Francis, the Church in New Zealand had already sought and got Church organisations to agree to waivers of any confidentiality clauses signed in the past with abuse victims. This was so we can cooperate fully with the Royal Commission on Abuse in Care.

“The Church is committed to a safe environment for everyone in the community. Any form of abuse, misconduct or inappropriate behaviour in the Church community is not acceptable.”

Read the Pope's declaration and details about it in these Vatican documents.

Explanatory Note: Pope Francis issued on 17 December a declaration that the Catholic Church rule of "Pontifical Secrecy" no longer applies in cases of the sexual abuse of minors, and matters of child pornography. The rule was included in a 2001 letter written by then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI) in his role of  Prefect of the Vatican body the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Pope Francis made the change to show the Church’s “openness, transparency, and the willingness to collaborate with the civil authorities.”