Cardinal John Dew has written to priests and lay pastoral leaders in Wellington archdiocese asking that respect be given to the tying of ribbons
to fences at churches or schools by survivors of sexual abuse by clergy or
In a letter dated July 26, Cardinal Dew stated that the “Loud Fences” movement has begun in this country.
“In this, coloured ribbons are being hung on fences to show solidarity with
victims of sexual abuse and to encourage victims and survivors to appear before the Royal Commission [of Inquiry into Historical Abuse in State Care and in the Care of Faith-based Institutions],” the cardinal wrote.
It has been reported in secular media that the movement started in Ballarat in Australia in 2015, outside the former St Alipius Boys’ School site, where appalling acts of child sexual abuse had taken place. The founder was a local woman, Maureen Hatcher.
People were invited to tie ribbons to the school fence in support of abuse victims.
The movement has spread across the world, including to New Zealand.
In 2018, ribbons were tied to the gates of St Joseph’s Cathedral in Dunedin
by sexual abuse survivors and supporters. Bishop Michael Dooley and others from Dunedin diocese were present at the event.
Secular media has reported three other New Zealand occasions when ribbons were attached to Church fences or gates by survivors and supporters, as well as the controversy that followed each instance.
In his letter, Cardinal Dew wrote that “the bishops would like to reiterate their support for survivors to be able to place ribbons at church gates or fences and create ‘Loud Fences’ as part of a valid and important way to work through the healing process”.
“Removing the ribbons,” the cardinal continued, “can be viewed as deeply
disrespectful to survivors/victims and can be retraumatising.”
“Accordingly, I invite parishes and schools to be respectful of this process and suggest it is an important opportunity for the Church to accompany survivors/victims through this journey.”
Cardinal Dew added that “you may need to pass this message on to your communities as sometimes people have not been aware of the significance of the Loud Fences and have removed the ribbons”.
“Please inform your communities about this and, if people do have doubts
or questions, please explain the significance of ‘Loud Fences’ and how helpful this can be for those who have suffered from abuse.”
The cardinal stated he would appreciate it if “you could also advise me if a Loud Fence action appears at your school or parish and I will write to the
Grant West says
I would like to thank Cardinal John Dew for acknowledging the importance of why survivors need to have the Loud Fence . This will not only help the survivors but will help the church as a whole to move forward by acknowledging the past so as to bring changes within.