Continuing the trend of reports recently leaked documenting decades of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, a new such report has appeared in the Netherlands.
Just a few days ago, a leaked report implicated Catholic priests in Germany of sexually abusing kids and seminarians over a 70-year period. A few weeks before that, the Catholic Church in America was implicated in a different report also documenting 70 years of priests’ sexually abusing minors and church coverups. Now, a new report emerged of how the Catholic Church in the Netherlands either abused children or covered up for sexual-predator-priests for 65 years (1945-2010).
According to the Dutch report, more than half of the bishops in the Netherlands either sexually molested minors or helped to hide the situation. In many cases, Catholic bishops covered up for child molesters by transferring abusive priests to other parishes where they continued their crimes.
Bishops Now Dead or Past Statute of Limitations
The report was published in NRC Handelsblad, the Netherland’s most reputable newspaper and accused Church leadership of adopting a “policy of transfers and turning a blind eye” to abusive priests. Within the investigated period, 20 bishops out of 39 looked the other way when a bishop or priest was accused of sexual abuse with children, while four auxiliary bishops were indicted in molesting minors.
The four accused auxiliary bishops are Bishop Jan Niënhaus of Utrecht, Bishop Jo Gijsen of Roermond, Philippe Bär Rotterdam, and Jan ter Schure of Den Bosch. All of them are dead except Philippe Bär Rotterdam, who is now 90 years old. Rotterdam was said to have had illicit sexual contact with seminarians, just like ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, former Archbishop of Washington.
Daphne van Roosendaal, a Church spokeswoman, confirmed the names of several bishops in the newspaper report are the same in a 2010 report commissioned by the Church. She, however, added that most of the accused bishops are dead and that the Dutch statute of limitations had expired for all the cases.
Sixteen of the bishops named in the report were accused of concealing abusive priests and transferring them to other parishes. Among these were Cardinal Bernard Jan Alfrink and Cardinal Adrianus Johannes Simonis, who both served as Archbishop of Utrecht. Alfrink died in 1987, but Simonis is now retired. All the others are no longer in active ministry.
Decades of Abuse and Catholic Church Coverups
The Dutch newspaper recounted the story of one particular priest who the Church found violated three girls aged 6 and 7. The Church transferred the priest from one diocese to another, but he eventually succeeded in committing suicide in 1990 when he was confronted with yet another scandal.
“The parents of the three girls had alerted the diocese through their parish priest,” said Annemie Knibbe, director of the Dutch organization Women’s Platform on Child Abuse.
“It was promised that the chaplain would go into therapy. The girls lived under the false impression for decades that other children were protected from such a horrible occurrence. When it later turned out that the man had just continued with his practices, that was hard for them,” she told NRC Handelsblad.
One sexual abuse victims came forward and told the Dutch newspaper that years ago she tried to get justice. She wrote the pope but got no reply, so she flew to Rome and personally hand-delivered her letter to the Vatican but again got no repy.
Not one of the victims got any form of justice.
“Sexual abuse shouldn’t happen anywhere, but certainly not in the Church, which has the mission to proclaim the Gospel of Christ,” a statement from the Dutch bishops’ conference said.
To find a lasting solution to the problem at hand, Pope Francis has summoned the presidents of bishops’ conferences around the world to Rome on February 21-24, 2019. The pope’s advisory Council of Cardinals may also be in attendance.