The Bishop of Dunedin says he may not wait for a Royal Commission before lifting the lid on the sexual abuse of children by men of the cloth within the diocese.

Bishop Michael Dooley told Otago Daily Times he was considering a public "full disclosure" based on diocesan records of complaints alleging the abuse of children by clergy.

That would include naming alleged offenders and revealing the numbers of victims involved and payouts made within the Dunedin diocese, where complaints were deemed "credible" and church records existed.

Such a move would set a precedent in New Zealand but follow in the footsteps of Catholic parishes overseas, including Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, which named 71 offenders in August.


Dooley said he had already raised the idea with the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference, which was "looking seriously at it".

If the initiative went ahead in Dunedin, the information could be released within months, he said.

That would happen independently of New Zealand's expanded Royal Commission, which the Catholic Church has promised would receive a "co-operative response" from the church.

Dooley said the church's engagement with the inquiry would be led by a new group, Te Ropu Tautoko, formed by the New Zealand Catholic Bishops Conference and the Congregational Leaders Conference Aotearoa New Zealand.

The comments came as uncertainty continued yesterday over the extent to which faith-based institutions would be included in the expanded inquiry.

The Government announced on Monday the inquiry would expand to include the abuse of children "in the care of" faith-based institutions.

The definition of "in the care of" was unclear, leaving Liz Tonks, a spokeswoman for the Network of Survivors of Abuse in Faith Based Institutions and Their Supporters, concerned.

The majority of survivors within her group were legally in their parents' care when abused in religious day schools, while serving as altar boys, or when parents welcomed a priest into their home, she said.


Neither the Prime Minister's office nor Martin responded to ODT requests for comment.

A Royal Commission spokeswoman acknowledged the "huge" public interest in the terms of reference, but said they would be reviewed by legal counsel, Sir Anand Satyanand and the other commissioners.