Nationwide New Zealand 27 July 2023
The Catholic Church in New Zealand has indicated that ritualistic abuse is not sexual abuse. However, victims of ritualistic abuse in Christchurch’s Catholic Diocese reported sexual offending within those rituals.
In August 2021, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) in Aotearoa New Zealand, received complaints of prolonged exorcisms and religious confessions involving sexual deviancy committed by the Christchurch-based Transalpine Redemptorists.
Dr Christopher Longhurst, National Leader of SNAP Aotearoa and a Catholic theologian stated that “a professed spiritual motivation does not prevent the abuse of children and vulnerable people. Rather, it can hide the offender’s actual motives.”
After receiving the first allegations of abuse by the Christchurch Catholic priests, SNAP contacted Archbishop Paul Martin SM, then Catholic bishop of Christchurch. However, Bishop Martin did not address the complaints.
Recently, when asked by SNAP about what risk assessments the Catholic Bishops’ National Safeguarding and Professional Standards Committee had undertaken relative to clerical sex abuse allegations in the Catholic Church, Archbishop Martin replied, “I am not in charge.”
When SNAP then reached out to the NZ Bishops Conference and Congregational Leaders Conference responsible for National Safeguarding Guidelines, Archbishop Martin responded, “You have raised concerns of breaches of trust and privacy. It is not appropriate that I correspond with you on this topic any further.”
According to SNAP Trustee Donald McLeish, “significant risk arises when Catholic bishops do not enforce their safeguarding standards and shut down legitimate questions on abuse.”
The NZ Commission of Inquiry into Abuse in Care found widespread sexual abuse of New Zealanders by Catholic priests. The NZ Catholic Church admitted 14% of its diocesan priests had been accused of sexual abuse.
Moving forward, SNAP believes the NZ Government has to set up a council to assure the safe practice of religious ministers. “That body, similar to the NZ Medical Council, would set standards that put the safety and wellbeing of persons first, and set out principles that define safe religious practice,” Dr Longhurst explained.
***If you or someone you know has been abused by a priest or minister of religion and need support, call or text 0223440496 or email [email protected]

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