The Catholic Church has accepted five fresh claims of child abuse, including allegations against a former priest already convicted of violating children.
It comes amid warnings that a child abuse inquiry that began in Australia yesterday is likely to reveal further allegations of abuse involving New Zealand priests.
Bill Kilgallon, who heads the Catholic Church's national office handling complaints of abuse in New Zealand, said that since late June the church had accepted five additional claims of abuse as genuine.
It had also investigated two new allegations from people who say they were sexually abused by priests as children.
One accusation is levelled against a former priest who is still alive and has already been convicted of sexually abusing another child.
The complainant had not yet gone to police, and Mr Kilgallon declined to provide further details. "If he [the complainant] does go to the police, we are better off with an element of surprise," he said.
Of the five claims accepted by the church in the past 2 months, four were from people who had been sexually abused by priests or teachers as children.
The fifth was from someone who was neglected, but not sexually abused, while at a children's home run by nuns in the 1960s.
All the claims relate to abuse between the early 1960s and late 1980s. With the exception of the convicted child sex offender, all the people accused have since died. At least one had faced similar sexual abuse allegations before, Kilgallon said.
"The inquiries weren't conclusive, but the fact that someone else has come forward will make us look at that again."
It often took a long time for people to find the courage to speak up about abuse, he said. "When they do, they usually just want to be heard and to be believed."
At least seven claims of abuse were still being investigated, but Mr Kilgallon said he expected more people would come forward as Australia's Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse got under way.
The commission held its first public hearing yesterday, looking into the response to abuse at institutions including the Scouts, the Salvation Army and the Anglican Church. Hearings into the Catholic Church are scheduled for December.
Growing publicity of child abuse in Australia in the past year has prompted five Kiwis living across the ditch to complain to the Catholic Church about abuse suffered in New Zealand.
Kilgallon said that, while the extent of abuse in New Zealand appeared to be less than in Australia, victims' suffering still needed to be acknowledged.
ABUSE IN THE NEW ZEALAND CATHOLIC CHURCH
In 2010, former Marist brother Bede Hampton was sentenced to 2 years in prison after he was convicted of sexually abusing two boarders at St Joseph's College, Masterton, in the 1970s.
In 2004, Marist priest Alan Woodcock was convicted of abusing 11 boys between 1978 and 1987 at various Catholic schools. Some priests in the church were aware of his predilection for boys but continued to move him between schools, where he continued to offend.
Three brothers of the Catholic order Hospitallers of St John of God were caught up in sexual-abuse scandal at Marylands School in Christchurch, with two serving jail time for abusing boys.
- Fairfax Media