Former Catholic Bishop of Auckland questioned over recommending priest facing abuse allegations

Former Catholic Bishop of Auckland questioned over recommending priest facing abuse allegations

Former Catholic Bishop of Auckland questioned over recommending priest facing abuse allegations

The former Catholic Bishop of Auckland has come under intense questioning at the abuse in care inquiry over recommending a priest, who had three allegations of abuse made against him, for a teaching job.

The Catholic Church appeared at the Royal Commission hearing in Auckland on Monday.

Bishop Patrick Dunn was responding to complaints made about Tongan priest Sateki Raass.

Raass was convicted in March 2019 for assaulting a person under 16, and he was sentenced to do 100 hours of community service. He later resigned from the priesthood.

He was a priest under the control of the Bishop of Tonga but was working in the Auckland Diocese.

Bishop Dunn was asked by counsel for the inquiry Katherine Anderson why he recommended Raass for a school teaching job nearly two years after he had been convicted.

“The principal [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 eventuate.

Bishop Dunn said in hindsight, Raass holding a teaching position would have been unwise.

“In some ways, yes, but on the other hand, he is a pretty talented man and comes from a family of teachers.”

Anderson asked the bishop if he understood his views might be seen as unrelenting support for Raass.
‘’You know you have had personal knowledge of three reports of abuse and you have been aware, at least in 2013, that he had been suspended in Tonga. It is a very strong sense of a commitment you have got for this person,” Anderson said.

Bishop Dunn replied: ‘’It is not a strong sense of support for him per se, but all through my life I have tried to help people who have had convictions to get their life back on to an even keel.”

He did not think it was unwise, but that it might not have been the right time, he said.

Raass was sent to live at a presbytery near a Catholic school. The school chair wrote to Bishop Dunn asking why it 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 the move. Later, the bail conditions were changed. I don’t think the police ever saw Sateki Raass as a threat to primary school children.’’

Bishop Dunn said he was kept at arm’s length from the complaints, as it was investigated by the church’s professional standards committee.

“So the complaint went to them and I was always kept at a distance from the actual complaint, so I was not an investigator as it were.”

The Archbishop of Wellington, Cardinal John Dew, spoke to the Royal Commission last year and he was back on Monday.

He reiterated the apology given on behalf of the Catholic Church in March 2021.

“Abuse is wrong, it should never be part of the church. I, and all of us, are ashamed on it. We are working hard to put safeguarding practices in place and we will continue to work on that.

“We will continue to work on what we have discovered during the time of 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 inquiry that abuse of trust was never acceptable.

“Such an abuse of trust in Catholic faith communities is shameful. It is shameful that people in authority who may have known about the abuse did not act in the victims’ favour.

“Whether bishops, priests, brothers, sisters, even parents, the level of abuse that we know of is painful to us all, so we need to support those who come forward to disclose abuse done to them and support them through which ever process they prefer.”

Peado Michael Shirres influential in Maori Churches

Peado Michael Shirres influential in Maori Churches

Peado Michael Shirres influential in Maori Churches

Shirres taught a generation of Anglicans that sin can co-exist ok with holiness.
Shirres taught a generation of Anglicans that sin can co-exist ok with holiness.

A Catholic priest who admitted abusing at least five children in New Zealand and earlier worked in Canberra was never reported to police, the church says.

And one of the women he abused says she believes there’s almost certainly Australian victims.

Five historical complaints were made in 1993 against Dominican Order member Father Michael Shirres, a priest and theologian who died in 1997, Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn said on Wednesday.

However while Shirres confessed to offending over several decades, police were never alerted because the victims wanted privacy, the bishop said.

He was instead put through an independent sex offender program and removed from priestly work. He later apologised.

“At that time the policy with historic cases, as distinct from current cases, was to prioritise the wishes of the complainant,” Bishop Dunn said.

“We respected their wishes and realised that if we did not, people would not be prepared to come forward.”

He said the church’s practice was to encourage complainants to go to the police and the Dominican Order worked to support those who had come forward.

A highly regarded figure in communities in New Zealand’s Far North from the 1970s, Shirres lectured Maori theology in Auckland and authored several books.

In the 1960s, he was chaplain at the Australian National University in Canberra for several years and was there at least until 1964.

Whangarei resident Annie Hill told AAP within her parish there was talk Shirres has was already an abuser when he returned to Auckland in 1966.

She was abused from age five and has been left with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“He didn’t suddenly get off the plane back in his home country and become a child abuser,” she said.

Ms Hill, who took compensation from the church in the 1990s, said she was now compelled to speak out because she felt the Dominican Order in recent years had venerated Shirres despite repeated warnings.

“My father raised this with them in 1966. I raised it with them again in the early ’90s and then in 2016 I went back to them and said again: ‘I believe there are other victims. What are you doing to make inquiries?’” she said.

“At the level of action, empathy and understanding, nothing has happened.”

Dominican Friars Provincial Anthony Walsh – the order’s regional head – is overseas but a spokesman for his office in Victoria said the order would check archives to see if any accusations had been made against Shirres in Australia, although it was not immediately aware of any.

The order said it would reply later in the week.

Abuser NZ priest worked in Australia

Flashback: July 2008, Christian doctrine offensive to Muslims, says Archbishop of Canterbury

Along with the acceptance of LGBT as a norm, these secular humanist issues have been justified and promoted here in New Zealand for decades by the joint Catholic-Anglican-Methodist venture of St Johns College, Trinity College and the Catholic Institute of Theology, all based out of the University of Auckland. There were no papers available on apologetics or defending the faith.

Christian doctrine offensive to Muslims, says Archbishop of Canterbury

Christian doctrine offensive to Muslims, says Archbishop of Canterbury

Key elements of Christian doctrine are offensive to Muslims, the Archbishop of Canterbury has said in a letter to Islamic scholars.

By Ben Farmer

His comments came in a published letter to Islamic leaders, intended to promote closer dialogue and understanding between the two faiths.

However they come just months after Dr Williams was forced to clarify comments in which he said some parts of Islamic law will “unavoidably” be adopted in Britain.

The comments are also made as the once-a-decade Lambeth Conference begins in Canterbury. Up to a quarter of bishops are boycotting the event, as the Anglican Church faces continuing division over the issues of women bishops and homosexual clergy.

The wide-ranging letter, which covers difficult issues including religious freedom and religiously-inspired violence is in response to a document written last year by Muslim scholars from 43 countries.

Discussing differences between the religions, Dr Williams acknowledges that Christian belief in the Trinity is “difficult, sometimes offensive, to Muslims”.

The Trinity is the Christian doctrine stating God exists as the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit and conflicts with Islamic teaching that there is one all-powerful God.

Speaking about the history of the two religions, Dr Williams said they had been too often confused with Empire and control.

He said: “Despite Jesus’ words in John’s gospel, Christianity has been promoted at the point of the sword and legally supported by extreme sanctions; despite the Qur’anic axiom, Islam has been supported in the same way, with extreme penalties for abandoning it, and civil disabilities for those outside the faith.

“There is no religious tradition whose history is exempt from such temptation and such failure.”

He goes on: “What we need as a vision for our dialogue is to break the current cycles of violence, to show the world that faith and faith alone can truly ground a commitment to peace which definitively abandons the tempting but lethal cycle of retaliation in which we simply imitate each other’s violence.”

The 17-page letter, called A Common Word for the Common Good, is in response to a letter from Muslim leaders written last September.

That letter, A Common Word Between Us and You, was signed by 138 Muslim scholars to declare the common ground between the two religions.

Dr Williams described the Muslim document as hospitable and friendly and added: “Your letter could hardly be more timely, given the growing awareness that peace throughout the world is deeply entwined with the ability of all people of faith everywhere to live in peace, justice, mutual respect and love.”

His own dense and meticulous letter did not mention sharia Islamic law at all. He received widespread criticism from politicians and other clergy for his comments in February and later told the General Synod he took responsibility for his “unclarity” and “misleading” choice of words.

It’s only taken years: Churches push for inclusion in Royal Commission into abuse

eight_col_1m1a2097Anglican Archbishop Philip Richardson (left) and Cardinal John Dew from the Catholic Church.

The Anglican and Catholic churches are making their most concentrated push yet to get the Royal Commission into abuse expanded to fully include them.

Anglican Archbishop Philip Richardson and Catholic Cardinal John Dew have met with the commission chair Sir Anand Satyanand.

“The Anglican Church needs to collaborate fully with the Royal Commission and we need the terms of reference to be extended in a way that allows that to be possible,” Archbishop Philip Richardson said.

“That’s the best way of addressing long-term hurt and long-term consequences.”

The Anglicans’ top General Synod committee is now also writing to the Prime Minister and the Children’s Minister calling for an expanded commission.

Some leading non-clerical Catholic voices have previously called for such an expansion – but now their top clergy are getting vocal too.

“We are saying that if they are going to move on to a stage of investigating institutions … then we would welcome having church institutions also included so that we too can learn from whatever failings might have occurred in the past,” Bishop Patrick Dunn, who heads the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, said.

The inquiry’s draft terms exclude scrutiny of abuse in institutions in cases where the state had no involvement.

So the case of a child sent into church care by the state would be treated differently to a child sent to, say, a Catholic school by their parents and abused there.

The government’s made its preference clear – even down to the email address of the inquiry:

However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, despite giving repeated interviews expressing this preference, has not said exactly why non-state agencies could not be included.

Survivors of sexual abuse by priests have been campaigning for an expansion, with some saying they would refuse to give their story to any Royal Commission that did not hold the institution to account in their case.

The Australian inquiry into child sex abuse heard 1100 complaints of abuse had been made against the Anglican Church from 1980 to 2015, and four times that against the Catholics.

“Certainly the Australian example is very salutary but we would have taken exactly the same position whether the Australian inquiry had been held or not,” Archbishop Richardson said.

As for other Christian churches, the consensus seems to be they all wanted to be scrutinised by the Royal Commission here, he said.

He was asking to meet Children’s Minister Tracey Martin, but is clearly keen to leave the government room to move.

“If the terms of reference are not extended, how can the church’s accountability be reflected? And we want to have those conversations with the [political] ministers … we’re really not sure what that might look like.”

The original whistleblower into Catholic clerical child abuse, US priest Tom Doyle, has said it would unheard of to try to have a second, separate inquiry into abuse in churches.

A Royal Commission spokesperson said Sir Anand had met the churchmen, was meeting a wide range of people and was not commenting on the content of any submissions.

She did not say if the public consultation on the draft terms of reference would be extended beyond the end of April or not.

Churches push for inclusion in Royal Commission into abuse

Religious academics KNOW they target Children with the LGBT message!

From the Church of England’s refusal to discipline William Yate when he was banished from Northland almost two centuries ago, until today, the churches have long been responsible for covering up those abusing children here in NZ. These same religious leaders are now openly targeting the sexualisation of Children into special communities with the LGBTQI++etc philosophy (that sex with anyone is ok because they claim our evolution from animals means that it’s only natural to follow our carnal instincts).

As lauded feminist lecturer Helen Bergin (Catholic Institute of Theology) claimed in her Auckland University School of Theology classes, “…life would be so boring if there were only two genders”. It was her desire that children be given opportunities at a young age to experiment sexually so they can chose their new gender. It was from these classes that Eugene Sisneros graduated while at St Matthews, only to take the Anglican Church to the Human Rights commission to normalise his behaviour as a role model for Anglican children. St Matthews recently held the thanksgiving service for the 2018 Pride Festival.

There needs to be a Royal Commission of Inquiry into NZ religious organisation’s child sexual abuse, modelled after the recent Australian one.