Dutch bishops dismiss paper’s bombshell report on episcopal abuse, cover-up as old news

The Bishops' Conference appeared defensive with its response to the information.
Tue Sep 18, 2018 - 6:04 pm EST
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St. Catherine's Cathedral in Utrecht, Netherlands

VATICAN CITY, September 18, 2018 (LifeSiteNews) ― The Dutch bishops have responded to a bombshell article on episcopal sex abuse and cover-up in the Netherlands by saying most of its allegations have been public knowledge for years.

A Dutch newspaper, NRC Handelsblad, alleged on Saturday that between 1945 and 2010 almost half of the Netherlands’ cardinals, bishops and auxiliary bishops — 29 of 40 — either covered up clerical sexual abuse or themselves abused children. According to journalist Joep Dohmen, 4 of them abused children and 16 others relocated pedophile priests where they could go on to find new victims elsewhere.

However, the Dutch Bishops’ Conference responded by saying that “much of the information” has been public knowledge since 2011 after an internal investigation by the Church. It acknowledged, however, that in the cases where bishops knew priests had abused minors, “insufficient care was taken by bishops who gave these priests a new appointment.”  

According to Vatican News, the Catholic Bishops of the Netherlands published an online statement explaining that “(o)n the basis of this investigation the Dutch Church launched measures in 2011 to prevent and combat abuse. In 2014, a very strict Code of Conduct was adopted, and it was renewed in 2018 with an even stricter obligation to report suspicion of sexual abuse of a minor to the police, even in the case of ‘semblance of truth.’”

The NRC Handelsblad compiled a list of Dutch prelates linked to abuse cases, and said some of the historic cases had come to light after 2010.

“These are well-known and lesser-known cases that have surfaced since 2010, the beginning of the abuse scandal in the Netherlands,” Dohmen wrote. “The information comes from the child abuse center in the church, from reports from the Deetman Commission and from the newspaper's own investigation.”

The prelates accused of abuse are auxiliary bishops Jan Niënhaus of Utrecht, Jo Gijsen of  Roermond, Philippe Bär of Rotterdam, and Jan ter Schure of Den Bosch. All are deceased.

“Other cardinals and bishops placed priests, after they had abused children, in other parishes where they could continue with a clean slate,” Dohmen continued. “If things went wrong again, then transfers took place again, sometimes to another diocese (in Holland) or abroad.”

Dutch Catholic journalist Jeanne Smits, who is also a French-language correspondent for LifeSiteNews, said she was disappointed to see Gijsen among the men accused.

“(I’m) surprised and sad to see Mgr Gijsen named not only for having covered up abuse ...  but as having personally abused two boys in 1958 and 1961,” she told LifeSiteNews via email. “On the other hand, no evidence is quoted, (which is) contrary to other affairs where damages awarded to the victims are recalled.”

“Gijsen had the only truly orthodox seminary in the Netherlands at the time when everything was being thrown overboard,” she continued.

As for the reliability of the NRC Handelsblad, Smits said the newspaper is biased but that she was troubled by the response of the Dutch bishops.

“NRC certainly has an ax to grind, but the Dutch bishops’ reaction is terrifying,” she said. “It’s more of a non-reaction, saying they are sad that bishops have covered up or personally participated in abuse, which sounds like a discreet confirmation.”

A spokesperson for the Dutch Bishops’ Conference, Daphne van Roosendaal, acknowledged that the list was at least partly accurate.

“The names of several bishops correspond to those named in a report commissioned by the church in 2010,” she told the AFP news agency.   

Roosendaal also stated that the allegations against the listed men must be verified. According to Vatican News, she said “it is important for the Church that truth is known and that light be shed on everything that has happened, and it is important for the victims that the truth be pursued.”

  catholic, clergy sexual abuse, dutch bishops' conference, netherlands, vatican

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