By EUGENE BINGHAM
Three brothers sexually abused as children by a Catholic priest in Auckland are angry they are still waiting for their case to be resolved eight months after they complained to the church.
The Ledingham brothers say they feel they are being abused again because of the delay in hearing their case, despite assurances that they would be dealt with "as speedily as possible".
"We feel that they only pay lip service to addressing the wrongs committed by their clergy and probably just want us to shut up, go away and hopefully die without saying any more," said Mike Ledingham, 52.
Church authorities this week admitted that they had failed the brothers and apologised when approached by the Weekend Herald.
"As the needs of those who have been abused are of paramount importance, it is important that cases are handled with as little delay as possible," said a church spokeswoman, Lyndsay Freer.
The brothers said yesterday that they were sceptical about the church's undertaking to act soon.
The case of the Ledinghams has highlighted a wider problem caused by the number of complaints that have emerged after publicity this year about sexual abuse in the church. Mrs Freer said the committees set up to deal with abuse in the church were under pressure.
"There have been 13 separate complaints concerning the Auckland diocese this year," she said. "This would be approximately twice the average annual number received." Two extra people had been brought onto the Auckland committee.
Mike Ledingham and his two younger brothers, Gerry, 51, and Chris, 49, were molested by the late Father Frank Green, in Auckland in the late 1950s and early 60s.
The three did not tell each other, their siblings or parents about the abuse for decades. Mike and Gerry shared their secret with each other about 15 years ago. But they did not come forward until this year when Chris revealed to them that he had also been abused as an altar boy. The three men now live in Australia.
Despite the delay, the church said this week that it accepted the truth of their allegations.
Chris wrote to the Bishop of Auckland, Patrick Dunn, in April but the letter was lost and he did not receive a reply until June. Several months later, a church representative from Australia went to see Chris who was told that his brothers would be interviewed in the next few days.
The interviews have not happened and the only contact they have had from the church since is letters telling them their complaints are still being dealt with.
"It's got to the point where they are really revictimising us," said Chris.
Mike said: "We have not taken the decision to go public lightly. But apart from the obvious detrimental effect it has had on our lives, we have found the church sadly lacking in the manner in which they have handled it [the complaint].
"These people profess to be God's representatives on Earth and promise people who listen to them a ticket to heaven. How can they promise heaven, when they can't recognise and atone for their own sins on Earth? Their ticket is counterfeit."
Gerry said the brothers had different motivations for coming forward. He wanted an assurance the church would protect other children, but he was not worried about compensation.
Mike said he wanted recognition of the impact the abuse had on his life, and Chris said he wanted the church to formally take responsibility. "I suspect someone must have known what was going on. I guess I want an apology and some compensation ... but I don't know how to calculate that in dollar terms," said Chris.
The Australian church representative who visited Chris told him that Father Green had abused others, but Mrs Freer said there were no records of any other complaints against the priest.
Mrs Freer said the delays seemed to have been caused by a communication breakdown between the Australian and New Zealand church authorities.
The Ledinghams would be followed up straight away.
She could not say how long complaints typically took to resolve because each one was different.
"Healing and resolution depend upon the needs of the individual. For some it is a process that can't be hurried and others feel that closure can be reached much more quickly. We have to respect individual needs."
Father Green served for 11 years in Onehunga, moving to Te Atatu in 1968. He was the driving force behind the building of halls in both parishes and was heavily involved in gymnastics, including six years as chairman of the NZ Gymnastic Council.
By EUGENE BINGHAM