The Dutch Catholic Church is investigating claims that a former priest and member of the Salesian order was also a member of a group which seeks to end the ban on paedophilia, and had two convictions for exposing himself to children.
The priest, identified only as Father Van B, is 73 and is said to have been a member of the Martijn foundation, a legal lobby group which promotes adult child sex, for years. He also served on its board between 2008 and 2010.
According to a reconstruction of events by RTL news, Van B’s behaviour was well-known to the church authorities, who failed to take action against him and allowed him to move to new parishes after complaints.
He was still able to work as a volunteer for various church organisations, including helping children prepare for their first communion.
‘Society finds these sort of relationships damaging. I do not agree. A child only suffers in a few cases,’ Van B is quoted as saying by RTL news. During the priest’s time on the board of Martijn, its chairman was arrested for possessing child pornography. That investigation is still ongoing.
The priest himself has two convictions for exposing himself to children, RTL said.
Thousands of past cases of alleged sexual abuse by Dutch priests are currently under investigation. The scandal broke last year after an investigation into claims of abuse in the 1950s and 60s at boarding schools run by Salesian priests.
RTL says the current head of the Salesian order in Holland, Herman Spronck, knew the priest was a member of Martijn and had convictions for exposing himself but that Spronck saw no reason why Van B should not be allowed to work with children.
During the interview, Spronck also said that relationships between children and adults did not have to be damaging. ‘Personally I do not condemn relationships between adults and children… Sexual contact is also possible.’
Only a few of the children who claim to have suffered abuse at the hands of priests have actually suffered, Spronck is quoted as saying.
Spronck later told RTL news he did not agree with the text of the interview and referred to the official church statement, distancing the Salesian order from the Martijn foundation.