Frequently Asked Questions
Below you will find some common questions about Te Rōpū Tautoko, the Royal Commission into Abuse in Care, and the Catholic Church’s response to abuse. If you want more details or have further questions, please use the contact form at the bottom of this page.
Te Rōpū Tautoko
What is Te Rōpū Tautoko?
Te Rōpū Tautoko is a small organisation formed to co-ordinate and manage cooperation between the Royal Commission and the Catholic Church, as represented by the Catholic Bishops and the Congregational Leaders of Aotearoa New Zealand.
How many Catholic organisations are represented by Te Rōpū Tautoko?
Te Rōpū Tautoko represents the six Catholic dioceses of New Zealand (which together form the NZ Catholic Bishops Conference – NZCBC) and more than 40 “congregations” or religious orders, (which together form the Congregational Leaders Conference of Aotearoa New Zealand – CLCANZ).
Does Te Rōpū Tautoko represent all the Catholic organisations in New Zealand?
Te Rōpū Tautoko represents the Catholic bishops of New Zealand and leaders of the congregations who are members of CLCANZ (the Congregational Leaders Conference of Aotearoa New Zealand). The bishops and congregational leaders have the task of representing the Church in responding to the Royal Commission. Various Catholic-affiliated bodies are not represented by Te Rōpū Tautoko. These include for example the charitable body the Society of St Vincent de Paul, and the Catholic Women’s League. If the Royal Commission makes any of these the subject of its inquiries, Tautoko will seek to engage with them.
Who are the members of Te Rōpū Tautoko?
Its members are representatives of the bishops, dioceses and other church groups, so that Tautoko can quickly get the significant volumes of information sought by the Royal Commission from the various parts of the Church.
The Royal Commission
Does the Catholic Church support the Royal Commission?
Yes. Very much so. The Catholic Church sought to be included in the Royal Commission. When first announced by the Government, only abuse in state care was to be investigated. The Church said it would be wrong if some individuals were excluded from the Inquiry simply because their path of referral to an institution was different from someone else’s. We strongly support the aims of the Royal Commission and are actively co-operating with it.
Does the Catholic Church have a lawyer at the Royal Commission?
Yes. The Church is represented at the Royal Commission by the firm Simpson Grierson.
As a core participant in the inquiry and the subject of formal investigation, the Catholic Church is required to be represented in the Commission hearings and other processes. Our lawyers are working with Te Rōpū Tautoko to prepare evidence, respond to Commission requests, provide advice, and liaise with the Commission’s legal team. All other organisations who are the subject of investigation are similarly represented.
Who is paying the Catholic Church’s costs at the Royal Commission?
The Catholic dioceses and congregations are paying the costs of participating in the Commission from their own resources.
What kind of information has the Royal Commission asked for?
The Royal Commission has asked Te Rōpū Tautoko for a wide variety of information. It is for the Royal Commission to decide what will be made public. Many thousands of documents have been provided by Catholic dioceses and congregations, collated by Tautoko, and given to the commission in the format it requires.
How many institutions and schools and so on are covered by the work of the Royal Commission?
The Royal Commission has a broad mandate to investigate events that occurred in a wide timeframe. The Catholic Church is made up of hundreds of parishes, hundreds of schools (including boarding schools) and many institutions that provided care. The Commission will determine which institutions it will focus on.
Why does the Church not go the Police itself when it hears of abuse?
The Church does report abuse to the Police when it identifies a level of risk to other people. The survivor or other person reporting to the Church might also choose to go the Police, and the Church will support anyone who requires assistance to do this.
Is the NOPS process independent? Isn’t it just the Church investigating itself?
The National Office for Professional Standards (NOPS) is a body created by the bishops and congregational leaders of the Catholic Church of Aotearoa New Zealand to respond to complaints of abuse involving clergy and members of religious congregations and oversee the Church’s safeguarding policies and practices. It appoints independent investigators with the relevant professional qualifications to conduct inquiries.
Does the Church accept that many past complaints of abuse were handled badly?
Yes. We recognise that complaints were sometimes handled poorly by those in leadership or even ignored. Victims of abuse, their families, and the Catholic community have experienced pain and shame by revelations that Church leaders failed to act or failed to act suitably. The Church also acknowledges that where complaints and cases were handled badly or there was inaction, it contributed additional trauma and suffering to victims and their families. The Church is committed to listening to the victims and survivors of sexual abuse, acknowledging past failings, and ensuring that our present structure and practices are safe.
Why is information on abuse in the Catholic Church in New Zealand not held in one place?
The model of governance in the Catholic Church means that every diocese and congregation is independently governed, so there is no formal “Catholic Church of New Zealand” that has authority over the whole country.
This current project required by the Royal Commission – to collate information from the six Catholic dioceses of New Zealand and more than 40 “congregations” or religious orders – is the first time that this type of information from these different groups in New Zealand has been collated.
I want to know if a specific person was ever accused or found guilty of abuse. How can I?
Complaint files are private information. If you want to request any public information or have concerns about a specific person, you can reach out the NOPS office or the group responsible for the individual (usually their diocese or congregation).
How many people involved with the Catholic Church, such as priests or brothers or nuns, have abused people in NZ?
We can’t give an exact number. Many survivors find it difficult to share their stories, and those that do might not always report it to the Church. This makes it difficult for us to get a full picture. However, Te Rōpū Tautoko is working with the Commission to quantify how many people have made complaints of abuse since 1950.
Has the Catholic Church in NZ apologised to survivors of abuse?
Yes. Cardinal John Dew delivered a comprehensive apology on behalf of the bishops and congregational leaders of the Church at the Royal Commission on 26 March 2021, but this was by no means the first such apology. In a 2002 Pastoral Letter, the bishops publicly expressed their deepest regret for the abuse that had happened and made a public apology. Church leaders have done so on a number of occasions since then – and will continue to do so both collectively and individually.
As well as apologies made collectively to all survivors, the bishops and individual congregational leaders have given many apologies to individuals and their whānau as part of redress for abuse. Those apologies have acknowledged the gravity of the harm which has been done.
Some past apologies can be found at these links:
What if any changes have been made to the training and selection of clergy?
“Safeguarding” is now an essential part in any training of priests. Before a candidate for the priesthood is accepted for the seminary, they are Police-vetted and screened. They undergo a full psychological assessment.
Diocesan priests, priests in religious congregations, and any visiting priests must be given clearance from their superior that they are in good standing and there have been no complaints made against them before they participate in active ministry in New Zealand. This includes priests coming or visiting from overseas.
What happens with complaints about Church leaders?
Nobody is above investigation. Every alleged perpetrator is investigated regardless of their role in the Church or community. Procedures around investigations and holding perpetrators to account exist for all clergy and religious, no matter who the alleged perpetrator is.