Roman Catholic orders, congregations and dioceses knew about the abuse of minors in Catholic institutions, but failed to help the victims or take action against the abusers.
This is the conclusion of the Deetman Inquiry which on Friday published its final report on abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands.
The report points to the inadequate organisation, and the closed culture of the Dutch archdiocese as the main reason for its inadequate response to the widespread abuse. The church also sought to avoid a scandal.
Summary of the report
External link: English summary of the Deetman Inquiry findings
Inquiry chair Wim Deetman, a former education minister, estimates that between 10,000 and 20,000 minors were abused in Catholic boarding schools, children’s homes and orphanages. In several thousands of cases the abuse could be characterised as very serious.
The Deetman Inquiry was able to identify 800 of the abusers. It received more than 2,000 reports, 1,800 of which involved sexual abuse. The abusers were, or are, active in dioceses, congregations and orders. At least 105 of them are still alive. Mr Deetman could not say how many of these 105 are still active in the Roman Catholic Church.
In the report, Mr Deetman argues for a government-controlled approach to sexual and physical abuse of minors.
The report says that the Roman Catholic Church’s compulsory celibacy was not a crucial factor in the abuse, but was an additional risk factor. Mr Deetman writes that this requirement makes priests vulnerable to transgressive behaviour. The inquiry feels that those who, often in their formative years, decided to become priests did not fully realise what their choice would entail.
For its investigation, the Deetman Inquiry studied the archives of dioceses, religious orders and congregations. It held a large-scale survey, studied international literature on the subject and met numerous current and former church officials.
Chesal and Dohmen
The inquiry was prompted by reports published by investigative journalists Robert Chesal from Radio Netherlands Worldwide and his colleague Joep Dohmen from national newspaper NRC Handelsblad. In February 2010, they published a report on abuse by the Salesian Fathers at the Don Rua boarding school in 's-Heerenberg in the 1960s. It was later followed by reports on other Catholic institutions.
“Little promise for the future”
Victims’ organisation Klokk says the conclusions of the Deetman Inquiry are even more shocking than they had expected. Klokk says the passive attitude of the Roman Catholic Church “holds little promise for the future.”
The Dutch bishops and the Conference of Members of Dutch Religious Orders have announced they will hold a press conference on Friday afternoon.
Also read: Covering the Catholic sex abuse cover-up