Inquiry finds thousands abused by priests in Holland

Dutch inquiry exposes clerical abuse

A Dutch inquiry into child sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests
said it found “tens of thousands” of victims since 1945.
An independent Dutch inquiry into child sexual abuse committed by
Catholic priests said it found “tens of thousands” of victims since
1945, identifying 800 alleged perpetrators.

Dutch bishops said they were filled with “shame and sorrow” over the
Deetman Commission’s findings – the latest allegations of abuse which
have rocked the Catholic Church in several countries in recent years.

Tens of thousands of minors were exposed to “mild, severe or very
severe sexual behaviour” by clergy or lay workers in the Dutch
Catholic Church over a 65-year period between 1945 and 2010, the
commission said in its final report.

“Based on 1,795 reports, the commission could find the names of 800
abusers who work or have worked for” Roman Catholic bishops in The
Netherlands, the report said.

Most were priests, but the figure also includes lay workers. “Of these
800 people, at least 105 are still alive.”

“It’s an absolutely enormous figure,” said former education minister
Wim Deetman who chaired the six-person commission including a former
judge, university professors and a psychologist that began its inquiry
last year.

Mr Deetman said it was up to prosecutors to decide if the surviving
alleged abusers should face criminal charges.

Claims of alleged sexual abuse examined by the inquiry went from
“light physical contact to penetration,” he said.

Regrets

Dutch bishops expressed their regrets and offered “sincere apologies”
to the victims.

“This episode fills us with shame and sorrow,” the bishops conference
said in a statement, adding that they were “shocked by the sexual
abuse of minors and the practices detailed in this report”.

Based on an examination of Church archives, Mr Deetman said that the
problem of sexual abuse had been “on the agenda of episcopal meetings”
since the 1940s.

“The Dutch Catholic Church knew what was happening and tried to
resolve the problem,” but the appropriate actions were never taken, Mr
Deetman told a press conference in The Hague.

A taboo on discussing sexuality in society until the 1960s and the
Catholic Church’s “closed” administrative structure were in part
responsible for religious authorities’ passive response to the
problem, the commission said.

The former minister said the inquiry came to no conclusion about a
direct link between priestly celibacy and sexual abuse, but the
commission’s report said celibacy posed a risk and led to a “need for
sexuality”.

The Dutch bishops conference said that “many more steps have to
follow” in the wake of the report, including “clear codes of conduct
and prevention programmes” in the training of priests.

Dutch bishops decided in 2010 to open an inquiry after revelations of
widespread abuse in the Netherlands were first reported in the
national press.

Estimates of the number of victims of child sexual abuse by the
Catholic Church was based on a survey of more than 34,000 Dutch people
aged 40 and over, representative of Dutch society.

A committee set up to advise the Church on compensation reported last
June that victims should receive up to €100,000, depending on the
severity of the abuse.