THE HAGUE: A media report linking half of the cardinals and bishops who served in the Netherlands between 1945 and 2010 to abuse cases has drawn the country’s Catholic Church into the church’s global sex abuse and cover-up scandal.
The leader of a group of Dutch victims of abuse by Catholic clergy called Monday for the church to make public all it knows about such cases if it wants to win back trust.
“If they want this misery to end — these are crimes committed against children, you can’t just walk away from that — then they have to make things public and set up a new system where people can file complaints,” said Bert Smeets, an abuse victim who represents a group of survivors called Mea Culpa.
Smeets’ comments came after a weekend report by respected Dutch daily NRC linked 20 of 39 bishops and cardinals to abuse. The paper reported that four bishops committed abuse and a further 16 senior clergymen transferred priests who had been accused of abuse to new locations.
The report was based on a 2011 Dutch Catholic Church report about abuse, victims’ testimony to a commission of inquiry and the newspaper’s own research.
It is the latest sex abuse scandal to rock the Catholic Church. Pope Francis has signaled that he will take action to end what he has called a “culture of cover-up” in the church. He announced earlier this month that he is convening a summit in February to discuss prevention measures and the protection of minors and vulnerable adults.
The 2011 Dutch report, which was independent but faced criticism because it was set up by the church, said that up to 20,000 children suffered sexual abuse at Dutch Catholic institutions over 65 years.
The report said about 800 priests, brothers, pastors or lay people working for the church were identified in complaints, but their names were not released.
In a written reaction to the NRC story, the Dutch Catholic Church said that in confirmed cases of abuse, “bishops did not act with sufficient care” when transferring priests.
The church stressed that it has put in place measures to prevent such cases in the future.