Thousands of children suffered sexual abuse in Dutch Catholic institutions, and church officials failed to adequately address the abuse or help the victims, according to the results of a long-awaited investigation.
The report's findings are potentially damning
Tens of thousands of children have been the victims of sexual abuse by the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands since 1945, an independent commission said on Friday, criticizing what it called the church's "cover-up and cultural silence."
The commission estimated that 10,000 to 20,000 minors were sexually abused while in the care of Catholic institutions such as orphanages, boarding schools and seminaries, between 1945 and 1981. After that time, church-run homes for minors were essentially discontinued.
Offenses ranged from the very mild to the serious, including rape.
But the report said sexual abuse was no more prevalent in Catholic institutions than in similar ones run by other groups.
"Sexual abuse of minors is widespread in Dutch society," the commission said.
Abuse by Catholic priests, laymen and laywomen was systematically covered up by the church to protect its reputation, the commission said, adding that the church was guilty of "inadequate supervision" and "inadequate action."
"The [religious] orders were dealing with cases. The idea that people did not know it and administrators did not know it cannot be maintained," said Wim Deetman, a Protestant former education minister and former mayor of The Hague who led the commission.
The report criticized the church for protecting pedophile priests as it tried to put the reputation of the church above care and concern for the victims.
"Everyone can be shocked that this history has come in this magnitude. Everyone can be taken aback that the church has lied about this and covered it up," Guido Klabbers, of the KLOKK lobby group of child abuse victims, told public broadcaster NOS.
The investigation was commissioned by the Conference of Bishops and the Dutch Religious Conference in 2010 after cases surfaced involving pedophile priests in the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Germany, Australia, Canada and the United States.
Author: Gabriel Borrud (AFP, Reuters)
Editor: Andreas Illmer