'Ashamed' Head of Fiji Catholic Church apologises over alleged child sexual abuse

Source: 1News

The head of the Fiji Catholic Church says he feels "ashamed" as he apologised for the behaviour of priests who allegedly abused Fijian children. 

In an exclusive 1 NEWS report , Pacific correspondent Barbara Dreaver spoke to a number of Fijians who say as children they were abused and raped by New Zealand and Australian priests, brothers and teachers, but so great is their shame they didn’t want to appear on camera, even unidentified.

Today, Archbishop Peter Chong responded to the story in a statement.

"First and foremost, I empathise with people who are victims of sexual abuse," he said.

"I empathise with their hurt, anger, trauma and feelings. I empathise with the pain that victims and their families have experienced and continue to experience. I empathise with the brokenness they have to live with and affect the way they relate to others.

"As head of the Fiji Catholic Church, I feel ashamed with the behavior of our church personnel. I feel angry. There is a heaviness in my heart yesterday and today. My first reaction was not to want talk to the media."

"On behalf of the Catholic Church in Fiji I express our remorse for past failures and extend our sincere regret and deep sympathy to peoples-victims of sexual abuse. The Church apologises unreservedly for any abuse perpetrated by clergy or religious. Sexual abusers have failed the ‘Sixth Commandment’ – You must not commit adultery."

Dr Murray Heasley from the Network of Survivors in Faith Based Institution told 1 NEWS about his insight into the issue facing churches.

“If you are a predator, a sexual predator, this is a fertile ground for grooming."

“Inside Fiji it’s even more problematic because Fijian culture tends to hold these people in very high regard and give them massive access which they exploited.”

Dr Heasley, who leads a network for survivors, is aware of the alleged Fijian Catholic abuse cases.

He says it was common practise for the church to move New Zealand Catholic abusers into the Pacific when suspicions or claims were made against them.

“Dangerous men shifted into very vulnerable communities where they are very unlikely to be outed,” he said.