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Catholic church knew of abuse for decades, published warnings

Tuesday 29 November 2011

The Catholic church was aware of child abuse at orphanages and other institutions throughout the Netherlands as early as 1954, according to documents found by researchers in church archives.

Senior church officials have consistently claimed they were not aware of the abuse.

However, television current affairs show Altijd Wat reported on Monday night the church's council for child protection issued warnings about child abuse in church-run homes and boarding schools in 1959 and 1962.


The warnings were sent to the authorities at 112 homes and residential schools.

The letters urged institution managers to be aware of the dangers of employing people who are 'unsuitable' to give leadership to children.

The 1959 circular, for example, says the child protection group was aware of a number of cases, 'with sad and serious outcomes'.


RTL news has discovered a warning made by a senior cleric in Tilburg in 1954 in which monks in Tilburg were told: 'be careful in how you relate to children and do not make your lives unhappy. Keep your hands to yourself.'

The documents shed new light on the church's claim not to have known about the widespread abuse of children living in church institutions.

Lawyer Martin de Witte, who is representing a number of victims, said the letters showed the church could no longer say it was not aware of the abuse and claim that the cases are now too old.


'They knew exactly what was going on but decided to to nothing about it,' De Witte told the Volkskrant.

It is almost two years since the scandal broke in the Netherlands with revelations that three Catholic clerics from the Don Rua cloisters in 's Heerenberg, Gelderland, had abused at least three children in the 1960s and 1970s.

Since then, a government commission has received reports of almost 2,000 cases of abuse within religious institutions. A number of cases will be taken to court

Earlier stories
Catholic church agrees to compensate sexual abuse victims

© DutchNews.nl


Readers' Comments

Simply outrageous.

By Philippe | 29 November 2011 10:06 AM

So for at least 57 years the church kept silent about the unsavory goings on: brings a whole new meaning to the word 'holy'.

The big question now is, how long can the church continue in this way, and how much can it get away with regarding the law?

(Bearing in mind that the church is supported by the government.)

By The visitor | 29 November 2011 1:18 PM

The catholic church should be treated just like any other business. If the upper management knew about this and did not fire the employees and report them to the police, they are culpable.

By Quest | 29 November 2011 3:59 PM

"The Catholic church was aware of child abuse at orphanages and other institutions throughout the Netherlands as early as 1954-Senior church officials have consistently claimed they were not aware of the abuse"

It was carefully done In the Name of God hiding this information from the public for decades so the church can get richer.

By Johnson | 29 November 2011 5:58 PM

The same pattern of behavior by church officials that was exposed in the U.S. in 2002 has been repeated in the Netherlands and in other countries. The documents that are being made public show an unconscionable level of deceit and an almost unbelievable lack of ethical or moral standards. And the pope worries about "the obstacles to Christian faith and practice raised by a secularized culture?" Church leaders should look to themselves as the church continues to lose credibility and moral authority.

Sister Maureen Paul Turlish
Advocate for Victims & Legislative Reform


By Sister Maureen Paul Turlish SNDdeN | 29 November 2011 11:34 PM

of course they knew about the abuse.
but the Catholic church has always turned a blind eye and their hyprocosy is enormous.
My brother was expelled from an all boys Catholic boarding school in Brabant, an older student made a pass at him and he fought him off.
of course my brother was expelled because the father of the instigator was rich and donated a lot of money to the school.so he could stay at finish off his education
so it is all about money, not about what is wrong or right

By ilse | 30 November 2011 12:36 AM

After the war, we had the German defence: "I was only obeying orders!"

Can we now officially declare the new Bishops' Defence in the global lexicon of excuses?

The Bishops' Defence: "I made a mistake and an error of judgement"

which is code for

"Along with my colleagues I wilfully and deliberately covered-up what I knew were serious crimes in a manner which has been replicated globally for decades"

By Chris | 1 December 2011 11:20 AM

@Sister Maureen Paul Turlish

we are not even scratching the surface here Sister. This problem is endemically, interdenominational. For example, the Protestant church has its own child abuse scandal to cover up too. And, outwith the clerical abuse, it was recently reported in The Netherlands that, a staggering, 118,000 cases of child abuse is reported here every year. It must now be of paramount importance to protect our children?


By Highlander | 1 December 2011 3:31 PM

Justice for all these victims and the world of people their sadness and pain has affected requires an equal price (priceless) for the religious structures that promote and perpetuate these crimes. God is a personal spiritual belief and journey. Not trust in a power and profit-oriented organization, who obviously don't speak for God. Sell their assets and disperse to all victims...AFTER a public acknowledgement and prison for all the offenders. I am sorry for the pain of countless children who now carry these scars of mistrust and confused self-blame (the offender's lie) throughout their lives.

By Pamela | 17 December 2011 6:46 PM

Catholic priests and monks are not the only ones who have been getting away with their evil deeds for decades. Seems to happen in all religious circles anymore.

By J. Davis | 18 December 2011 5:39 PM

I am Catholic and I do not concider me as a hypocrite. I went to Catholic Elementary School and Catholic High School. I ve been in France for a half of year to study french on Catholic High School. All my friends and I ve never been the target of any abuse. I know personally at least 15 priests and they arent pedophiles. I ve never been in touch with anyone, who was target of an abuse from a priest. I m from Slovakia. We had communism there. Catholic Church was the biggest opponent to that ideology. Catholic Church made lots of good things. Why do you alwas speak abou the bad ones ?

By Maťan | 20 December 2011 6:14 PM

Germany was a nazi state during The World War II. and we don´t call them nazis, so we don´t use the collective guilt. However, with Catholic Church is different. There were several thoundsands of scandals (not all pedophile, some of them were pederastry) and the medias and people call all Catholics as hypocrites and pedophiles. I think, this is hypocrite. And if you really want to know something about abuses in Catholic Church just try to ask or seek for information also from Catholic sources. I think this is the best one : http://www.vatican.va/resources/index_en.htm

By Maťan | 20 December 2011 6:22 PM

Btw, it is a little bit ridiculous, that Dutch government is shocked by this. You had the pedophile political party not long ago ...


By Maťan | 20 December 2011 6:24 PM

I forgot to say several thounsands from more than 2 million priest. It s not very big number ;-)

By Maťan | 20 December 2011 7:31 PM

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