Papal Visit To Papua New Guinea Highlights Catholic Church’s Child Sexual Abuse Scandal

The upcoming visit to Papua New Guinea by Pope Francis highlights the practice of Catholic Church leaders sending child sexual predators to work among vulnerable people in the developing world, according to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP Oceania).

SNAP was referring to the upcoming papal visit to PNG in August this year, and a report by New Zealand’s Royal Commission into Abuse in Care, “Stolen Lives, Marked Souls,” and the Final Report of Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The New Zealand inquiry into the Order of the Brothers of St John of God at Marylands School and Hebron Trust, Christchurch, recognised that members of St John of God were sent from Australia and New Zealand to Papua New Guinea. “Stolen Lives, Marked Souls,” July 2023 stated: “The practice of regularly relocating brothers, whether because of abuse or for other reasons, contributed to much higher levels of offending than would otherwise have been the case.”

SNAP notes that “Stolen Lives, Marked Souls” also reported that “the worst possible abuse and neglect was inflicted on tamariki and rangatahi at the hands of the brothers of the Order of St John of God at Marylands School and Hebron Trust.”

According to SNAP, St John of God abusers being sent from New Zealand to Papua New Guinea was not an isolated example. Donald McLeish, SNAP Australia Leader claimed that “Catholic bishops and congregational leaders across the globe have shuffled predator clergy and religious overseas to vulnerable and remote countries to hide them.”

This claim is supported by testimony given at Pennsylvania’s Grand Jury Inquiry into Catholic Church sexual abuse which identified the practice of transferring predators to new locations rather than removing them from ministry so that no more children would be harmed.

“[I]f a predator’s conduct becomes known to the community, don’t remove him [from ministry] to ensure that no more children will be victimized. Instead, transfer him to a new location where no one will know he is a child abuser.” (2018-Investigating-Grand-Jury-Report-NO.-1_FINAL)
SNAP Oceania reports that the St John of God Order still works with children in PNG, and to its knowledge, there has never been any inquiry into the Order's practices in PNG. According to Felix Fremlin, SNAP leader in Fiji, “there remains little accountability for these crimes, and victims remain without justice.”

As Pope Francis is coming most of the way around the world to PNG, maybe he could come a little further to Australia, Fiji, and New Zealand to apologise to the victims and survivors of child sexual abuse at the hands of the Order of the Brothers of St John of God and other Catholic religious orders in these countries. 


SNAP is asking the Vatican authorities to consider altering the papal itinerary. 



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