More than half of the senior figures in the Dutch Catholic Church have been accused of covering up or engaging in the sexual abuse of children, according to a report by the Netherlands’ leading newspaper.
Out of the 39 cardinals, bishops, and auxiliary bishops, four have been accused of abusing children whilst another 16 have been accused of transferring known paedophile priests to other parishes where they may have gone on to abuse more children, the Dutch newspaper of record NRC Handelsblad.
The abuse is said to span from 1945 to 2010, including “well-known and lesser-known cases that have surfaced since 2010, the beginning of the abuse scandal in the Netherlands” and is sourced from original reporting, the Deetman Commission that investigated the sexual abuse of minors in the Roman Catholic Church in 2010-2011, and anonymous information obtained from a victims’ support unit at the Church.
NRC profiles the clerics who abused the choir girls, altar boys, other minors, and seminarians, notably:
- Jan Niënhaus, who died in 2000, and had abused eight boys before becoming Auxiliary Bishop of Utrecht; the Roman Catholic Church had found the complaints against him well founded.
- Jo Gijsen, Bishop of Roermond, who died in 2013, had complaints against him for raping two boys upheld by the Church. Gijsen also facilitated the moving of other paedophile priests from one parish to another.
- Philippe Bär, Bishop of Rotterdam (1982-1993), was accused of sharing a bed with male students training as priests and had allegedly taken no action against at leave five priests who had abused children.
- And Jan ter Schure, former Bishop of Den Bosch who died in 2003, is said to have abused a pupil at a boys’ boarding school in Ugchelen. The congregation of Salesians, to which he belonged, paid the victim 16,000 euros in 2003.
The Guardian, the Dutch Catholic Church said it could “confirm a part” of the report.
“The names of several bishops correspond to those named in a report commissioned by the church in 2010,” Church spokeswoman Daphne van Roosendaal said.
Most of those implicated had died, van Roosendaal added, with those others still alive withholding comment, according to NRC.
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With relation to the other 16 senior clerics who allegedly facilitated the movement of paedophile priests to new parishes rather than defrocking them or alerting police, the newspaper gave the example of three girls, aged between six and seven, who were sexually abused by a chaplain in Maastricht.
After the abuse was exposed in 1969, the chaplain attempted to kill himself by driving his car into a tree. After surviving the suicide attempt and rather than dismissing him, Monsignor Petrus Moors moved him on to Thorn.
The newspaper goes on to describe that Moors’ successor Jo Gijsen facilitated further transfers throughout the province of Limburg, with the priest continuing to abuse children for another two decades.
In the 1990s, he was caught again in North Limburg Ospel, where he is said to have regularly raped one victim. He was successful in his second attempt at suicide.
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“Transfer and look away. That was the regular recipe of cardinals and bishops in cases of sexual abuse,” the newspaper writes, comparing the emerging scandal to another in Pennsylvania, U.S.A., where a report by the Pennsylvania grand jury on clerical sex abuse found that over 70 years, around 1,000 minors were by some 300 priests, deacons, and seminarians.
“People talk about America, but the same thing happened to me around the corner,” says Brigitte Kicken, one of the first victims of the Maastricht chaplain.
“In Maastricht alone, at least five children,” the abuse survivor added.
According to the Diocese of Roermond, nine men and women were abused by the Maastricht priest. Attorney Noor Geraads said that, in fact, 12 people have filed a complaint against him, with both Geraads and Ms Kicken believing there may be many more victims by that perpetrator alone.