Nov 14, 2023

Vatican orders investigation into Christchurch Catholic group over allegations of abuse, unauthorised exorcisms


Michael Morrah 

November 14, 2023

The Catholic Church in Rome has ordered an investigation into a little-known Catholic group in Christchurch, following allegations of spiritual and psychological abuse and unauthorised exorcisms.

An emeritus bishop from Australia has been sent to New Zealand to interview complainants as a representative of the Pope.

The move follows a months-long Newshub investigation, where 17 people spoke of their concerns about leaders of the group known as the Sons of the Most Holy Redeemer.

Auckland University senior lecturer in theological and religious studies, Nick Thompson, said he's not aware of such a move by Rome in New Zealand in recent years.

He said it indicates the "emergency button" has been activated by the highest echelons of the Catholic Church.

"It's always an emergency. The Vatican would never do this in the normal run of events. So, it will send in this figure called an apostolic visitor," Thompson told Newshub.

That visitor and representative of Pope Francis is emeritus bishop and canon law expert Robert McGuckin from Australia.

McGuckin took over from bishop William Morris from his post in Toowoomba in 2011.

Morris was removed from his post by former head of the church Pope Benedict for abuse of church doctrine.

McGuckin, now retired, will interview various parties linked to the Sons of The Most Holy Redeemer, including those who left citing serious concerns.

Peter Lineham, Emeritus Professor of history at Massey University, said such a move is rare and McGuckin is highly regarded.

"The Vatican's treated this seriously and has grabbed one of its most senior retired bishops from Australasia and called him in. This is very significant."

The Sons, also known as the Transalpine Redemptorists, is run by Fathers Michael and Anthony Mary.

But an investigation on Newshub's Paddy Gower Has Issues revealed concerns about their teachings and manipulative behaviour, claims they interfered in family life, and that multiple unauthorised exorcisms, including on young people, were carried out.

The leaders deny any wrongdoing.

They now face international scrutiny in a move initiated by the local bishop of Christchurch, Michael Gielen.

Gielen declined a request for an interview, but Newshub understands he visited Rome in August where he notified officials of his concerns and asked for help.

In a statement, he said the Holy See has appointed McGuckin to investigate.

"I sought the guidance of the Holy See," Geilen told Newshub.

"In response to this, the Holy See initiated an apostolic visitation and appointed Most Reverend Robert McGuckin, bishop emeritus of Toowoomba, as apostolic visitor," he said.

"The apostolic visitor is appointed to act as a papal representative tasked with reviewing circumstances identified by the Holy See."

Fireman and former congregation member of the Holy Sons, Greg Price, said it's a great relief.

"I think it's hugely significant. I think it's fantastic that it's all being taken seriously."

He and many others felt their complaints to former church leaders were ignored.

"Nothing has been happening and we haven't been heard and we now feel we are being heard and the matters are being taken seriously.

"So I think there will be a sense of relief."

Price believes the Holy Sons should be disbanded.

"I just pray that the truth comes to light, and the right decisions are made," he told Newshub.

It's not known when any decision will be made - such investigations are usually shrouded in secrecy and take months to complete.

No comments: