New Zealand’s Catholic bishops will closely review a new Vatican guide on dealing with sexual abuse by priests to see how it matches their existing rules on handling such abuse.
In mid-July, the Vatican’s Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith published Vademecum (“Handbook”), a 17-page step-by-step-guide to help bishops and other Church religious administrators handle accusations of abuse by clerics against minors.
Complaints of abuse in the New Zealand Catholic Church are handled under the A Path to Healing, Te Houhanga Rongo protocols, introduced by the bishops in 1993 and updated several times since.
The Church urges victims of abuse – past and present – to complain to the Police or, if victims prefer, to the Church’s National Office for Professional Standards (NOPS), which can appoint independent investigators to examine complaints.
Cardinal John Dew, the Archbishop of Wellington and Metropolitan Archbishop of New Zealand, said he and his fellow bishops would look at the Vademecum guidelines closely and discuss them at their next full bishops’ conference meeting in September.
“It is a complex document,” said Cardinal Dew. “We will be looking carefully to see where it fits in with the civil and criminal law of New Zealand.
“The bishops believe that every person has an innate human dignity – te tapu o te tangata – and therefore all forms of abuse are unacceptable and indefensible.”
Cardinal Dew said NOPS was also reviewing the Vademecum document to identify if changes may be needed in A Path to Healing.