The Shame of Ireland
The Conference of Bishops sets a "price list" for compensation of victims of paedophile priests
A "price list" to close the paedophile scandal: five thousand euros for verbal molestation or behavior of a sexual nature; twenty-five thousand euros for rape; one hundred thousand euros for exceptional cases involving group drugging or serious abuses causing permanent damage. In the Netherlands, the Catholic Church has decided to compensate victims of clerical sexual abuse, and this could represent a pilot experiment for all other national episcopates.
Faced with hundreds of cases of violence that took place in parishes and ecclesiastical institutions, bishops and heads of offices of the Dutch Conference of Bishops have voted in favour of the creation of a damages fund. The commission, which was charged by the bishops last summer to produce a technical report, has set the sums for compensation of victims of paedophile priests, and now the National Conference of Bishops has approved the arrangement, signing off on the dossier’s conclusions. The total cost of compensation will exceed five million euros. Damages will be calculated based on the seriousness of the abuse committed, the Dutch episcopate stated.
For at least two years in the Netherlands the paedophilia scandal was tearing the Catholic Church apart, and a government investigation examined more than two thousand cases of abuse which took place inside religious institutions, many of which ended up in the courts. In addition, in March 2010 the Dutch Conference of Bishops opened an independent investigation to ascertain what occurred in the various Catholic schools where child abuse cases had been reported, starting with sexual violence in a Catholic secondary school in the town of Heerenberg. According to the testimonials collected by the daily newspaper De Telegraaf, during the 1950s some Catholic school nuns were also guilty of abuses against minors.
The Dutch newspaper reports the story of Herman Harends, now seventy-three, who recalls the disturbing events he experienced as an eleven-year old attending a Catholic school in Tegelen, a town in the south of the Netherlands. "I never spoke of it before because it was a difficult accusation to support and prove. I'm not looking for vengeance or apologies - many of the sisters are already dead. And I don't believe mine is an isolated case." In April 2010, after the publication of the Pope's pastoral letter on sexual abuse within the Irish Church, the Conference of Bishops publicly recognized the need to "rebuild trust." Bishops Van Luyn (president of the Dutch episcopate) and de Korte (point person for abuse investigations) signed a note saying: "The words used by Benedict XVI to express his sincere sympathy and regret for the victims and their families in Ireland can be fully extended to victims in the Netherlands." The Dutch bishops shared "proposals that the Pontiff is making to do justice to the victims, so that there is repentance, for the healing of the victims and rebuilding of trust." In fact, "when the Pope recalls the great errors made by Church leadership, errors that have undermined its credibility, bishops and heads of orders must assume responsibility and deal with the criticisms.” And, says the leadership of the Dutch Church, "the independent research that was proposed - and for which the former President of the House of Representatives Wim Deetman is doing the preparatory work - is where these problems will be dealt with."
A total of 137 priests, monks, and nuns are involved in the scandal through alleged cases of abuse of minors in Dutch Catholic schools during the 50s, 60s, and 70s, according to the investigation conducted by Radio Netherlands. The radio broadcaster has collected at least 128 testimonials from former students of various Catholic schools who were sexually abused by religious teachers. These include nine emigrants. According to the radio report, incidences of abuse peaked in the 1950s (with 43 accusations) and then in the seventies (62). All the witnesses describe the atmosphere of fear and code of silence that prevented victims from publicly reporting their abuse. According to the Bishops' Advisory Commission, "Aid and Law," which has conducted an independent investigation, there are at least 350 accusations.
Furthermore, one victim of child sexual abuse by priests (one of whom went on to become Bishop of Den Bosch, Holland) in 2003 received from the Church - and more exactly from the Salesians of Don Bosco – €16,000 in exchange for his silence about the abuse. The high prelate involved in the situation was Jan ter Schure, Bishop of Den Bosch from 1985 to 1998, who died in 2003. The current Bishop of Rotterdam and head of the Dutch Conference of Bishops, Adrianus Van Luyn, has been accused of being aware of the situation since 2008 but failing to speak out about it. The student's abuse occurred in Father Rua's monastery-school in Ugchelen, Holland, between 1948 and 1953, and during the period in question the head of the school was a young priest. After the situation was brought to light by the Dutch media, lawyers for the Salesians in Holland, Cornelis Oosterwijk, stated that the abuse victim had broken the gag agreement simply to get money and that he could not produce proof.
For its part, the Dutch Conference of Bishops has denied that Van Luyn ignored the victim's request to go public with the case. In 2008, the Bishop of Rotterdam responded to the abuse victim's requests, stating that he did not have administrative authority over the Salesians. The Dutch Church created an independent investigation commission, headed by the ex-mayor of Rotterdam and Minister of Education Wim Deetman, to verify the basis of the accusations. And now the bishops have set the prices for compensation of the victims.
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