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New Zealand Church Apologizes

June 23, 2002|From Associated Press

WELLINGTON, New Zealand --The Roman Catholic Church in New Zealand said Saturday that it knew of 38 cases of sexual abuse by church officers in the last 50 years and offered victims an "unreserved" apology.

In the Catholic Church's first admission of widespread sexual abuse by church officers in New Zealand, officials said the cases included complaints against priests and lay members in positions of authority. The abused were children, teens and adults receiving care from the church.

In an open apology, Father Tim Duckworth of the Society of Mary, New Zealand's largest order of priests, said the church's former policy of moving known offenders to other parishes or schools, rather than removing them from their duties, was a mistake.

"I unreservedly apologize on behalf of brother priests and religious [members of the church community] for the hurt that has been done by some few of our number," he said in a statement.

Catholic communications director Lyndsay Freer said the repeat nature of offenders was not understood in the past.

"The church ... has come to understand the need for openness and transparency," she said.

Under new church policies, known pedophiles will be removed from their duties and victims will be strongly recommended to take criminal complaints to the police.

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