The Vatican has punished a Dutch bishop for sexually abusing a teenage boy in Kenya. Cornelius Schilder, who served as a bishop in Kenya until 2009, was barred from saying Mass in public by the church authorities in Rome. This penalty was imposed 18 months ago without any public announcement.
Fons Eppink, head of the Mill Hill order in the Netherlands, confirms that the bishop was indeed penalised by the Vatican. He told Radio Netherlands Worldwide and Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad that the measure was taken by the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoples in Rome. Schilder has been barred from “saying Mass in public and from fulfilling pastoral duties,” Father Eppink explains.
Cornelius Schilder was given early retirement on 1 August 2009, officially due to his ailing health. Since that time he has been living at a convent that cares for the elderly, run by the Mill Hill order in the Dutch town of Oosterbeek. Never before has a Dutch bishop been disciplined by the Vatican for sexually abusing a minor.
Bishop Schilder was accused by a 32-year-old member of the Masai tribe in the province of Ngong in southern Kenya. The man says that as a 14-year-old boy he was raped by the bishop who was still a priest in Ngongo at the time.
The man has also accuses another Dutch missionary from the Mill Hill order, who has since died. In January 2003, Cornelius Schilder was appointed bishop of the Kenyan diocese of Ngong, which is home to around 100,000 Roman Catholics.
Like Cornelius Schilder, Fons Eppink was also a missionary in Kenya. As head of the Mill Hill order in Kenya, Father Eppink heard the accounts of both the victim and the bishop. “I asked the papal nuncio in Kenya and the archbishop to initiate a church investigation. This formed the basis for the Vatican’s action. The police were not informed.”
In a written statement, Anthony Chantry, the General Superior of the Mill Hill missionaries worldwide, states that the order “will cooperate fully with any legal investigation aimed at protecting the interests of children and vulnerable adults.” Cornelius Schilder himself has declined to comment.
The Dutch Public Prosecutors Office says it is also possible to prosecute someone for sexual abuse committed in Kenya here in the Netherlands, provided that charges are brought.