Rotterdam bishop Ad van Luyn knew about several cases of sexual abuse of children at Catholic boarding schools run by the Salesian order, a spokesman for the bishop told the NRC and Dutch world service radio RNW.
Van Luyn was head of the Salesian order from 1975 to 1981. The bishop was aware of ‘several concrete cases’ and ‘had to take action’, the spokesman said.
It is the first time the bishop has admitted knowing about the abuse. He declined to make any further comment pending the outcome of an independent inquiry into abuse at Catholic schools and seminaries nationwide.
Since the NRC and RNW broke the scandal at the end of last month, over 1,100 reports of abuse have been made to the church authorities. The NRC has had 128 reports from people who were abused by priests, monks and nuns while under their care.
Meanwhile, foreign minister Maxime Verhagen said cardinal Ad Simonis totally missed the point when he used the German phrase ‘Wir haben es nicht gewusst‘ (we did not know) about the growing sexual abuse scandal.
The phrase was used by Germans after World War II as the horror of the Nazi concentration camps unfolded. But the phrase is seen an excuse for a lack of action. This could be seen to imply the church authorities did have their suspicions.
The Dutch bishops conference has stressed Simonis was speaking personally, not as a representative of the church.