Dutch Catholic Church faces 2,000 abuse complaints

Dutch Catholic Church - Comment on 2010 December 10

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2010 December 10
With one legal case starting this week, and accusations against two former bishops, the reaction of the church appears to have fuelled the crisis. Read more:

Dutch Catholic Church Faces 2,000 Abuse Complaints

An investigative commission showed that almost 2,000 people had made complaints of abuse against the Roman Catholic Church.

Dutch Panel Found 2,000 Church Abuse Claims

The Roman Catholic Church, battered by sexual abuse scandals from the United States to Belgium, is facing a new set of damaging allegations in the Netherlands. Figures released Thursday by an investigative commission showed that almost 2,000 people had made complaints of sexual or physical abuse against the church, in a country with only four million Catholics.

”The Roman Catholic Church has not faced a crisis like this since the French Revolution,” Peter Nissen, a professor of history of religion at Radboud University in the Netherlands, said of the growing abuse scandal.

With one legal case starting this week, and accusations against two former bishops, the reaction of the church appears to have fuelled the crisis.

Asked in March on television about the hundreds of complaints already surfacing, one of the church’s most senior figures, Cardinal Adrianus Simonis, shocked the nation by replying not in Dutch but in German. „Wir haben es nicht gewusst“ - We knew nothing - he said, using a phrase associated with Nazi excuses after World War II.

“A lot of people perceived it as an affirmation of the culture of covering up cases,” said Professor Nissen, adding that it meant to many, “ ’We should have known’ or ‘We knew but we didn’t want to know.’ ”

Next month Cardinal Simonis, the retired bishop of Utrecht, will testify in Middelburg as a witness in a court hearing already under way involving sexual abuse.

In an interim report, issued Thursday, a commission headed by Wim Deetman, a Protestant and former education minister, said it had received roughly 1,975 reports of sexual or physical abuse, some directly but others through a body set up for victims, called Hulp en Recht, or Help and Justice.

One central accusation in the Netherlands is that, as in other countries, known abusers were simply transferred to new parishes.

In recent weeks it has emerged that a Roman Catholic order, the Salesians of Don Bosco, paid about $22,000 to settle an abuse claim against one bishop, Jan ter Schure, who died in 2003. The abuse is said to have taken place in Ugchelen between 1948 and 1953. The order declined to comment.

Meanwhile, Hulp en Recht is examining claims against a former bishop, Jo Gijsen, now 78, who has been accused of having an abusive relationship with a student at the Rolduc seminary between 1959 and 1961. He has denied accusations against him.

Central to the growing public debate over the church’s culpability is the extent to which sexual abuse was tolerated and covered up.

The hearing at which Cardinal Simonis will testify next month involves a priest convicted of abusing three youngsters in Terneuzen. The priest had been arrested, though not prosecuted, on similar grounds in the late 1970s as director of a Catholic youth center near The Hague, part of the diocese where Cardinal Simonis was then bishop.

 

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