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
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