20,000 children suffered abuse by Dutch priests
Published 17/12/2011 | 05:00
ABOUT 20,000 children have been sexually abused by 800 Roman Catholic priests or lay workers in Holland since 1945, an independent inquiry has estimated.
The investigation received 1,800 reports of sexual abuse by clergy or volunteers within Dutch Catholic dioceses, congregations and religious orders.
At least 105 of the alleged abusers are still alive.
Children involved in church organisations were twice as likely as non-Catholics to be exposed to abuse and the "mild, severe or very severe sexual behaviour" was covered up by senior clergy.
"The problem of sexual abuse was known in the orders and dioceses of the Dutch Catholic Church," the inquiry by Wim Deetman, a former Dutch minister, concluded.
"No adequate action was taken, nor was sufficient attention devoted to victims."
Based on a survey of more than 34,000 people, the Deetman report estimated that one-in-five children in Catholic school institutions between 1945 and 1985 suffered abuse.
Allegations of abuse by the Salesian Fathers at the Don Rua boarding school in Heerenberg in the 1960s led to the wider investigation, in March 2010, of paedophile assaults within the church, a process mirrored in Belgium, Ireland, Germany, Australia, Canada and the US.
Archbishop of Utrecht Wim Eijk apologised to victims in the wake of the inquiry. He said the report "fills us with shame and sorrow".
The commission began work last year. As evidence of abuse emerged, the Dutch Catholic Church last month set up a compensation system. The total bill could be more than €4.8m.
More than 2,000 people have now registered abuse with the church and Dutch authorities and a number of cases will be taken to court.
"To prevent scandals, nothing was done: it was not acknowledged, there was no help, compensation or aftercare for the victims," said Mr Deetman.
"There was a policy of not hanging out the dirty washing. There is a cultural silence."
Guido Klabbers, from the Klokk group of child abuse victims, said: "Everyone can be shocked that this history has come in this magnitude. Everyone can be taken aback that the church has lied about this."
The inquiry did not find a direct link between the Catholic requirement for clerical celibacy and the abuse of children but Mr Deetman did conclude that "sexual need" was a factor.
"We do not consider it impossible that a number of cases would not have happened if celibacy was voluntary," he said.
The inquiry concluded that the covered-up child sex abuse was not unique to the Catholic Church. Another Dutch commission is investigating the role of social services in placing children in institutions where they were open to abuse. (© Daily Telegraph, London)