Friday 22 September 2017

Dutch church investigates priest in group to promote paedophilia

TOBY STERLING

The Dutch Catholic Church and the Salesian order are investigating revelations that a Salesian priest served on the board of a group that promotes paedophilia, with the full knowledge of his boss.

The order's top official in the Netherlands, Delegate Herman Spronck, confirmed in a statement that the priest -- identified by RTL Nieuws as 73-year-old "Fr Van B" -- served on the board of Martijn, a group that campaigns to end the Dutch ban on adult-child sex.

"Of course we reject this and distance ourselves from this personal initiative," Mr Spronck said in a statement. "Membership in such organisations does not fit with the ethos of the Salesian order."

However, Mr Spronck's own superior in Belgium said he will investigate both Mr Spronck and Fr Van B, after both men were quoted by RTL Nieuws as saying such relationships weren't always harmful.

Superior Jos Claes told Belgian television yesterday that he "couldn't imagine" that both men would not be disciplined, but said he must make sure of the facts first.

"Society thinks these relationships are harmful. I disagree," RTL quoted Fr Van B as saying. He served on Martijn's board from 2008 until 2010, when its founder was arrested for alleged possession of child pornography.

Fr Van B told RTL he remained a member of Martijn and now lived in a retirement home.

In a second interview, RTL quoted Mr Spronck as saying he was aware of Fr Van B's membership in Martijn, and even of two instances where the priest had been fined by police for exposing himself in public.

But he said he didn't think that was sufficient reason to ban him from the order.

Mr Spronck added that adult-child sexual relations do not necessarily have to be damaging, including with children as young as 12.

Spronck and his organisation could not be reached yesterday for comment.

Dutch Catholic Church spokesman Pieter Kohnen said yesterday that this particular case was "unbelievable" and the church utterly rejected paedophilia.

He said if Superior Claes did not act quickly to reform the Dutch Salesian order's leadership, the matter would be referred to Rome.

Thousands of past cases of alleged sexual abuse by Dutch priests are under investigation by an independent but church-funded commission in the Netherlands.

Sunday Independent

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