Peado Michael Shirres influential in Maori Churches

A Catholic priest who admitted abusing at least five children in New Zealand and earlier worked in Canberra was never reported to police, the church says.

And one of the women he abused says she believes there’s almost certainly Australian victims.

Five historical complaints were made in 1993 against Dominican Order member Father Michael Shirres, a priest and theologian who died in 1997, Auckland Bishop Patrick Dunn said on Wednesday.

However while Shirres confessed to offending over several decades, police were never alerted because the victims wanted privacy, the bishop said.

He was instead put through an independent sex offender program and removed from priestly work. He later apologised.

“At that time the policy with historic cases, as distinct from current cases, was to prioritise the wishes of the complainant,” Bishop Dunn said.

“We respected their wishes and realised that if we did not, people would not be prepared to come forward.”

He said the church’s practice was to encourage complainants to go to the police and the Dominican Order worked to support those who had come forward.

A highly regarded figure in communities in New Zealand’s Far North from the 1970s, Shirres lectured Maori theology in Auckland and authored several books.

In the 1960s, he was chaplain at the Australian National University in Canberra for several years and was there at least until 1964.

Whangarei resident Annie Hill told AAP within her parish there was talk Shirres has was already an abuser when he returned to Auckland in 1966.

She was abused from age five and has been left with post-traumatic stress disorder.

“He didn’t suddenly get off the plane back in his home country and become a child abuser,” she said.

Ms Hill, who took compensation from the church in the 1990s, said she was now compelled to speak out because she felt the Dominican Order in recent years had venerated Shirres despite repeated warnings.

“My father raised this with them in 1966. I raised it with them again in the early ’90s and then in 2016 I went back to them and said again: ‘I believe there are other victims. What are you doing to make inquiries?'” she said.

“At the level of action, empathy and understanding, nothing has happened.”

Dominican Friars Provincial Anthony Walsh – the order’s regional head – is overseas but a spokesman for his office in Victoria said the order would check archives to see if any accusations had been made against Shirres in Australia, although it was not immediately aware of any.

The order said it would reply later in the week.

Abuser NZ priest worked in Australia

It’s only taken years: Churches push for inclusion in Royal Commission into abuse

eight_col_1m1a2097Anglican Archbishop Philip Richardson (left) and Cardinal John Dew from the Catholic Church.

The Anglican and Catholic churches are making their most concentrated push yet to get the Royal Commission into abuse expanded to fully include them.

Anglican Archbishop Philip Richardson and Catholic Cardinal John Dew have met with the commission chair Sir Anand Satyanand.

“The Anglican Church needs to collaborate fully with the Royal Commission and we need the terms of reference to be extended in a way that allows that to be possible,” Archbishop Philip Richardson said.

“That’s the best way of addressing long-term hurt and long-term consequences.”

The Anglicans’ top General Synod committee is now also writing to the Prime Minister and the Children’s Minister calling for an expanded commission.

Some leading non-clerical Catholic voices have previously called for such an expansion – but now their top clergy are getting vocal too.

“We are saying that if they are going to move on to a stage of investigating institutions … then we would welcome having church institutions also included so that we too can learn from whatever failings might have occurred in the past,” Bishop Patrick Dunn, who heads the Catholic Bishops’ Conference, said.

The inquiry’s draft terms exclude scrutiny of abuse in institutions in cases where the state had no involvement.

So the case of a child sent into church care by the state would be treated differently to a child sent to, say, a Catholic school by their parents and abused there.

The government’s made its preference clear – even down to the email address of the inquiry:

However, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, despite giving repeated interviews expressing this preference, has not said exactly why non-state agencies could not be included.

Survivors of sexual abuse by priests have been campaigning for an expansion, with some saying they would refuse to give their story to any Royal Commission that did not hold the institution to account in their case.

The Australian inquiry into child sex abuse heard 1100 complaints of abuse had been made against the Anglican Church from 1980 to 2015, and four times that against the Catholics.

“Certainly the Australian example is very salutary but we would have taken exactly the same position whether the Australian inquiry had been held or not,” Archbishop Richardson said.

As for other Christian churches, the consensus seems to be they all wanted to be scrutinised by the Royal Commission here, he said.

He was asking to meet Children’s Minister Tracey Martin, but is clearly keen to leave the government room to move.

“If the terms of reference are not extended, how can the church’s accountability be reflected? And we want to have those conversations with the [political] ministers … we’re really not sure what that might look like.”

The original whistleblower into Catholic clerical child abuse, US priest Tom Doyle, has said it would unheard of to try to have a second, separate inquiry into abuse in churches.

A Royal Commission spokesperson said Sir Anand had met the churchmen, was meeting a wide range of people and was not commenting on the content of any submissions.

She did not say if the public consultation on the draft terms of reference would be extended beyond the end of April or not.

Churches push for inclusion in Royal Commission into abuse

Religious academics KNOW they target Children with the LGBT message!

From the Church of England’s refusal to discipline William Yate when he was banished from Northland almost two centuries ago, until today, the churches have long been responsible for covering up those abusing children here in NZ. These same religious leaders are now openly targeting the sexualisation of Children into special communities with the LGBTQI++etc philosophy (that sex with anyone is ok because they claim our evolution from animals means that it’s only natural to follow our carnal instincts).

As lauded feminist lecturer Helen Bergin (Catholic Institute of Theology) claimed in her Auckland University School of Theology classes, “…life would be so boring if there were only two genders”. It was her desire that children be given opportunities at a young age to experiment sexually so they can chose their new gender. It was from these classes that Eugene Sisneros graduated while at St Matthews, only to take the Anglican Church to the Human Rights commission to normalise his behaviour as a role model for Anglican children. St Matthews recently held the thanksgiving service for the 2018 Pride Festival.

There needs to be a Royal Commission of Inquiry into NZ religious organisation’s child sexual abuse, modelled after the recent Australian one.

1100 child abuse complaints made against Australian ANGLICAN church

1100 child abuse complaints made against Australian church


The head of Australia’s Anglican Church expressed sorrow and shame after a government report published on Friday said close to 1100 people had filed child sexual assault claims against the church over a 35-year period.


The interim report, which said most children were aged around 11 when they were abused, came a month after a high-level inquiry into child abuse was told the Australian Catholic church had paid A$276 million in compensation to thousands of victims since 1980.

The report, which was published by the same inquiry, the Royal Commission Into Child Abuse, said the complaints identified 569 Anglican clergy, teachers and volunteers as alleged abusers. There were another 133 alleged abusers whose roles at the church were not known.

Melbourne Archbishop Philip Freier said he felt a “personal sense of shame and sorrow” at the way the church had apparently silenced victims.

“Anglicans have been truly shocked and dismayed (by) the scope of our failure to tackle child sexual abuse within the Church,” Freier, the church’s primate, said in a statement on its website.

A royal commission is Australia’s most powerful kind of government-appointed inquiry and can compel witnesses to give evidence and recommend prosecutions.

The current royal commission had previously heard that seven percent of Catholic priests working in Australia between 1950 and 2010 were accused of child sex crimes, but few were pursued.

The commission’s latest report said 1082 people had lodged complaints between 1980 and 2015 about 1115 alleged incidents while they were under the care of the Anglican church. Some of the incidents dated back to 1950.

The Anglican church had paid A$31 million to 459 of those complainants, the report said. Another report published by the inquiry last month said the Catholic church had paid compensation to about three-quarters of complainants.

“It tells us that any processes we had in place did not prevent abusers working in our church, as clergy and lay leaders and, in the roles most trusted to care for our children, as teachers and youth workers,” church general secretary Anne Hywood told the inquiry.

“We are deeply ashamed of the many ways in which we have let down survivors, both in the way we have acted and the way we have failed to act,” she said.

The royal commission is due to report back to the government in December.

– Reuters

Australian abuse survivors criticise NZ inquiry

Australian abuse survivors criticise NZ inquiry

New Zealand’s plan to leave the Church and other non-state groups out of the Royal Commission of inquiry into abuse is getting some bad press in Australia today.


The Newcastle Herald has gone big with a story of Australian survivors of abuse afraid their New Zealand counterparts won’t get justice.

Joanne McCarthy, the journalist who did in Australia what the Boston Globe’s Spotlight team did in the US to break open the clerical sex abuse scandal, has interviewed them.

The approach being taken here was “completely unacceptable”, she said.

“The terms of reference will make for different tiers of abuse survivors within the same schools or institutions – those whose abuse cases are deemed important enough to be investigated and those who are told their abuse, as children, doesn’t count because the state wasn’t involved.

“You can’t possibly do justice in that situation.”

Her years of reporting on abuse over the Tasman helped heap such pressure on Australian authorities that they eventually launched the five-year, $500 million inquiry into institutional sexual abuse that has just concluded.

More than half the sexual abuse cases heard survivors talk about involved the Church, especially the Catholic Church.

The New Zealand inquiry’s draft terms exclude any case that did not have state involvement, so ruling out survivors of abuse confined to the Church, sports clubs and the like – plus any abuse occurring after 1999.

A three-month consultation period has just begun, which will include a visit to Australia by the commission’s chair Sir Anand Satyanand in April.

Melbourne expatriate Grant West could not tell his story at the Australian inquiry, because his years of abuse in church and state-run homes happened in New Zealand.

The 56-year-old is now wavering over appearing at the New Zealand inquiry.

“Look, I can attend under the state care part, but I won’t attend on those grounds,” he said.

“This is just not on, this government has got to protect all children.”

It also needed to call non-state institutions in to be questioned, held accountable and forced to change, Mr West said.

Other survivors, both in this country and expats in Australia, Canada and Britain had told him they would boycott it too, he said.

“They want the broad spectrum of all institutions to be held [to account].”

He presented a 2700 signature petition to Parliament two years ago calling for an inquiry into child abuse, but said Labour Party politicians who backed him then were not answering his emails now.

Ms McCarthy said the current consultation period risked retraumatising survivors by putting the onus on them to provide the numbers to justify expanding the inquiry.

She pointed to the case of the New Zealand-born St John of God Brother and child rapist Bernard McGrath, to show why shared trans-tasman scrutiny was vital.

McGrath abused children in Australia and New Zealand, in state care and not in state care; the 70-year-old just last week was sentenced in Sydney to 33 years in prison.

State abuse inquiry a ‘long time coming’

State abuse inquiry a ‘long time coming’

The Royal Commission of Inquiry into the historical abuse of children in residential state care has been a long time coming – so long, in fact, that a number of the former wards we will hear from will probably be well into their 80s.


In terms of summoning old ghosts, however, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern deserves credit for allowing a comprehensive political fact-finding exercise in which the reputation of some previous Labour governments also appear booked to take a wallop.

New governments, after all, typically tend to concentrate on serving up rich sauces of symbolism, high in popular cholesterol and with much joyfully self-referential music playing in the background.

The idea usually is not to make them potentially damaging to their own political health or that of their party brand.

Ms Ardern has said the inquiry, which will be the most retrospectively far-reaching of its kind to be held in her first term, will not primarily be about the individual cases RNZ and other media have highlighted over the past 18 months.

Rather, she says, it will be about examining those systems that failed. It will look at what governments did and didn’t do as they blundered for the most part through the decades in looking for new ways to care for the neglected young and those who landed on the wrong side of the youth courts.

Many of those administrations were Labour-led.

Troubled history

It was, after all, under a Labour government that these onetime educational residences became the youth crime facilities that have featured in so many of the hard-luck stories that the public has become familiar with over recent years.

The first dramatic turn for the worse almost certainly occurred in 1972 when the old Child Welfare Division of the Department of Education, as it had been known since 1948, morphed into the then new Department of Social Welfare, which assumed the oversight of the country’s residential institutions.

Many of the abuse claims currently outstanding relate to the years immediately following this change, which passed on the watch of the third Labour government.

Fifteen years on, it was another Labour government that began winding down the national operation as it had become.

What remained of the 26 residences closed their doors – but there was to be no closure of the sort the Royal Commission will be looking to give and which Labour at the time, had it not been mired in its own ideological civil war, might have provided.

As the reverberations of the failed experiment first began to be felt, it also fell to the last Labour government to deal with the hundreds of miserable claims made by former wards.

The government of former prime minister Helen Clark oversaw the establishment of a Historical Claims Unit within MSD, which soon found itself overwhelmed by petitioners.

Outstanding claims

Within a couple of years, the number of claims in the unit’s quiver had reached 140 – many of them highly complex – that somehow had to be dealt with by a team comprising just five advisors and a couple of administrative staff.

By the unit’s own estimate in 2010, around two-thirds of the claims the hard-working unit had worked on had reached some kind of agreeable resolution, whether in the provision of important information or the issuing of an ex grata payment, usually at the lower end of the spectrum up to $30,000.

But this accounted for just 36 such claims; a further 137 still awaited action even at that point, and the number over recent years has only grown apace.

None of this to suggest the issue has been only of Labour’s making. Indeed, more than most, the matter of these old residences remains an equal-opportunity political offender, reflecting not only the two major parties but others like the Māori Party and the Greens who between them barely murmured when the subject first began to air.

What is more, it was the National Party that refused to countenance any kind of official inquiry at all.

“Today we are sending the strongest possible signal about how seriously we see this issue by setting up a Royal Commission of Inquiry,” Ms Ardern said in announcing the overdue remedy. True enough. But she is also sending the strongest possible signal that few previous administrations are likely to emerge with their reputations enhanced by it.

* David Cohen, a former ward of Epuni Boys’ Home, is the author of Little Criminals (Random House), a portrait of the state-run children’s residences that operated in New Zealand between the 1950s and late 1980s.

‘The ground has been covered’ – English on state abuse inquiry

‘The ground has been covered’ – English on state abuse inquiry

17 Jan 2018

‘The ground has been covered’ – English on state abuse inquiry

12:11 pm on 17 January 2018

New Zealand is already working to change the state care system, and an inquiry into child abuse will only distract from that, opposition leader Bill English says.

Many of the thousands of children placed in state care between the 1950s and 1980s were subjected to sexual, physical and mental abuse.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern promised an inquiry would be launched in Labour’s first 100 days, but there have been calls to broaden the government’s inquiry into the abuse of children in state care.

Ms Ardern rejected that, saying the focus should stay on the role the state played.

Speaking to Summer Report for the first time this year, Mr English said he had not changed from his government’s position that there was no need for a historical inquiry.

“An inquiry that’s launched now in my view frankly is likely to take the energy that’s currently been directed to positive change, so these things do not happen again and direct it into going over ground that has been gone over,” he said.

“The previous government had a very hard look at how state care was working, went through a process in great detail, and now there’s a major change going on in the operations of state care based on all the analysis of all the past performance and on principles of social investment so we can do a much better job for these young people.”

The United Nations recommended in August that New Zealand hold an independent inquiry into the abuse of children and adults with disabilities in state care.

Similar inquiries have been set up in Australia and the United Kingdom, but Mr English said the situation in New Zealand was different.

“The inquiries in Australia and the UK … they’ve been Royal Commission type inquiries not really focused on changing the machinery of government, based simply on listening to the stories.

“Now, in New Zealand there’s been a parallel process going back quite a number of years through the confidential listening process, and a large number of legal settlements regarding abuse, and that has provided the opportunity for people to be heard.”

“So in that sense the ground has been covered in a couple of different ways,” he said.

He also said he had heard some of the stories first hand.

“As an MP I’ve had the experience I’m sure many other local MPs have had, of sitting in the office and hearing these stories.

“In fact, I remember them going back to the early ’90s, hearing some of the horrific stories out of the mental health institutions at the time, which certainly persuaded me that those needed to at least change and probably be closed.”

“One of the benefits of the processes that have been gone through is that victims get to tell their story.”

However, the stories have not generally been aired publicly, and the government has not yet apologised, although the new Minister for Children has said it should.

Mr English also criticised the government’s 100-day plan, saying although it had done most of what it set out to, it achieved little.

“The question is whether the checklist is compiled of things that are going to make any difference to anybody.”

“Setting up the mental health commission doesn’t change any mental health services, setting up the child abuse inquiry if anything may detract from the scale of change that’s going on there right now.

“The free first year of tertiary education … is being explained to us in Parliament as MPs didn’t need $100,000 a year, well in my case they’ve handed my household $600,000 a year.

“Its’ a very expensive, very poorly targeted policy that will have the effect of getting maybe a few thousand, couple thousand more people into tertiary education.

He said New Zealand was doing well, and his opposition would criticise the government where it seemed to be going “off track”.

“When you’ve got an economy generating so many jobs, you’ve got strong government books that allow us to deal with child poverty, you’ve got well-developed policy that’s allowing us to fix the quality of fresh water in New Zealand – then keeping that momentum going is important.”

“If the government says they can do better then we’ll encourage them and support them where they have policy that says they actually will do better.

He also targeted the coalition arrangement.

“The question is going to be will they agree on anything past that 100 days.”

Calls to include faith institutions in abuse investigation

Calls to include faith institutions in abuse investigation

The Labour-led government has promised to set up an inquiry and groups of survivors want its scope broadened.

They are being backed by psychologist Michelle Mulvihill, who was a consultant to Australia’s royal commission on institutional sex abuse.

Dr Mulvihill spent nine years consulting around child sex abuse cases at the St John of God Brothers, which included a New Zealand case in Canterbury where there were 76 victims at the hands of two priests.

She said the Australian commission found the majority of children sexually assaulted were abused in faith-based institutions so they should be included in New Zealand’s inquiry.

She said if it did not happen, only half the story would be told.

“These victims of faith-based organisations need to be seen in a context and the context is wider than the discussion about whether they’re the same or different to those people in the state-based institutions. It’s criticially important to their well-being.”

Dr Mulvihill said the men she had met were in dire straits.

“They’re not people who are searching about for money, they’re people who want to be recognised and acknowledged properly.”

Darryl Smith – who attended Marylands School in Christchurch in the early 1970s – said he was raped and abused from the age of six.

He said an independent inquiry into the abuse he endured while in the care of the Catholic Church was vital for his ongoing recovery and healing.

The Minister for Children, Tracey Martin, said no decisions had yet been made about the scope and detail of the inquiry.

* The Network of Survivors of Abuse in Faith-based Institutions can be contacted at

Catholic Church rejects changes aimed at preventing sexual abuse

Catholic Church rejects changes aimed at preventing sexual abuse

Australia’s leading child protection agency, Bravehearts, is disappointed at the Catholic Church’s swift rejection of proposed changes to confession to help prevent sexual abuse.

The report has called for an overhaul of the confessional, with religious ministers forced to report any child sexual abuse revealed to them. Photo: 123RF

The country’s Royal Commission of Inquiry into abuse has recommended changes that would force priests to report information confided in them in confessional.

The agency’s chair Hetty Johnson said the church’s attitude was not surprising.

“This is the culture that we’re dealing with and the attitude that the Canon law is superior to the laws of the nation, I mean this is what has to change, this dinosaur mentality.”

Catholic Archbishop of Melbourne Denis Hart has said he does not fully support some of the 189 new recommendations delivered by the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

In what would be a shake-up of centuries of tradition, the recommendations called for an overhaul of confessional, with religious ministers forced to report any child sexual abuse revealed to them.

But Archbishop Hart said he does not support any changes to confession that would force a priest to report information to authorities.

“I revere the law of the land and I trust it but this is a sacred, spiritual charge before God which I must honour and I have to respect and try to do what I can do with both,” Archbishop Hart said.

Archbishop Hart cautioned against making changes to confessional, saying it was a “serious spiritual matter”.

He admitted that if someone revealed their child abuse to him in confessional, he would feel “terribly conflicted” but he would not break the seal.

“The penalty for any priest breaking the seal is excommunication, being cast out of the church, so it’s a real, serious, spiritual matter,” he said.

Catholic Archbishop of Sydney Anthony Fisher also warned against changing confessional, describing it as a “distraction”.

“I think any proposal to effectively stop the practice of confession in Australia would be a real hurt to all Catholics and Orthodox Christians and I don’t think would help any young person,” he said.

“I think if young people are to be kept safe, focusing on something like confession is just a distraction.”

Of all the survivors who reported abuse in religious institutions, more than 60 percent said it had happened at the hands of the Catholic Church.

The royal commission report said the Catholics had demonstrated “catastrophic failures of leadership”, particularly before the 1990s.

The average age of abuse victims at Catholic institutions was 11 years old.

The report also called for the Catholic Church to make celibacy voluntary for its clergy, saying it contributed to child abuse.

New criminal offence, national office recommended

While the details of much child abuse uncovered by the royal commission had been published already, today’s report is the final, most comprehensive reckoning for religious, government and other institutions put under the microscope over the past five years.

Alongside recommendations made to churches, it called for a new criminal offence to be created that would make it easier to prosecute institutions who had failed to protect children.

Among the other recommendations were the creation of a new National Office for Child Safety and a website and helpline to report child abuse.

The report estimated the number of child victims in the tens of thousands, saying their abusers were “not just a few rotten apples”.

“We will never know the true number,” it read.

“Whatever the number, it is a national tragedy, perpetrated over generations within many of our most trusted institutions.”

The report is told over 17 volumes – its length reflecting the exhaustive process which included 57 public hearings and 8000 private sessions. A total of 409 recommendations have been made.

About 4000 institutions were reported to the royal commission, which heard from 1200 witnesses over 400 days of testimony.

More than 2500 people have already been referred to police.

Chief Royal Commissioner, Justice Peter McClellan AM, handed the report to Governor-General Peter Cosgrove on Friday morning.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull paid tribute to the commissioners and survivors.

“It’s been very tough, often harrowing work, but above all, I want to thank and honour the courage of the survivors and their families who’ve told, often for the first time, the dreadful stories of abuse that they received from people who actually owed them love and protection,” he said.

Spotlight on religion

The Catholics were not the only religious institution to come under fire.

In its findings, the royal commission said all Jewish institutions in Australia should explicitly state a Jewish law, known as mesirah – which forbids a Jew from informing on another Jew – does not apply to the reporting of allegations of child sexual abuse to police.

It said the Anglican Church should adopt a uniform standards framework to ensure bishops and former bishops are accountable to an appropriate authority or body in relation to their response to complaints of child sexual abuse.

It also recommended the Jehovah’s Witness organisation scrap the two-witness rule – which requires two eye witnesses to an allegation of sexual abuse – in cases involving children.

Making it easier to prosecute alleged child abusers formed a large part of the report.

The royal commission called for changes to current laws, which would make it easier for a defendant’s criminal history to be revealed in court.

It said state and territory governments should introduce legislation to provide that good character be excluded as a mitigating factor in sentencing for child sexual abuse, with the exception of New South Wales and South Australia.

The royal commission called for state and territory governments to extend grooming laws, so that it’s not just an offence to groom a child, but it is also an offence to groom their parents or carers.

Schools need more guidelines

The report also urged state and territory governments to provide nationally consistent guidance to teachers and principals on how to prevent and respond to child sexual abuse.

It said particular emphasis should be placed on monitoring boarding schools to ensure they meet the Child Safe Standards.

It said the Council of Australian Governments should review minimum national requirements for assessing the suitability of teachers.

The final report said it was believed that thousands of children may have been harmed by other children’s sexual behaviours in Australia each year.

“We also believe exposure to violent or harmful practices in an institutional context is a risk factor for exhibiting harmful sexual behaviours,” it said.

The report said institutions may have enabled harmful sexual behaviours by allowing a “culture of violence and intimidation to prevail” so that abuse was “normalised”.


Call for state abuse survivors to shape inquiry

Call for state abuse survivors to shape inquiry

The Race Relations Commissioner has asked victims of state care abuse to give feedback on how they would like an independent inquiry to run.

Dame Susan Devoy Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

In July, the National-led government rejected a petition signed by 12,000 people calling for an independent inquiry into state care abuse.

The new government has since honoured their pledge to give the victims what they want.

Race Relations Commissioner Dame Susan Devoy said it is crucial the voices of survivors are heard and the loved ones of those who did not survive are front and centre in any independent inquiry into the abuse of New Zealanders held in state care.

She said she wanted state abuse survivors to share their stories as well as their hopes for what an inquiry could look like.

In an email sent to the survivors, Ms Devoy said the inquiry would give the victims some kind of closure.

“We can never change the past but what we can do is make sure the truth of what happened in the past is known.

“This is the beginning of a journey that we need to take as a nation, looking back at the past, making amends for what happened and making sure it is never repeated.”

The commission will send submissions to the independent inquiry once it is established.