Monday, February 7, 2011
Dutch bishops admit they did not warn diocese of pedophile priest, Cardinal denies knowledge of abuse and Vatican cover-up
Cardinal Ad Simonis will appear in court in Middelburg on Tuesday. [see article below] It will be the first time such a senior Roman Catholic cleric is to give evidence on child abuse before a Dutch court.
The Middelburg case has been brought by a 34-year-old man who was abused by the now very elderly priest, Jan N. The abuse took place in the early 1990s in Terneuzen in the diocese of Breda. The victim hopes the evidence of Cardinal Simonis and other church officials will show that the diocese can be held liable for not taking measures to prevent sexual abuse.
Last week, Bishop Hans van den Hende of Breda and Herman Spronck, head of the Salesian teaching order in the Netherlands, gave their testimony in the case. Father Spronck admitted that the Salesians (Father Jan’s first employers) did not inform the Breda diocese of the priest’s paedophile offences.
While he was in a position of authority at the Don Bosco Youth Centre in Rijswijk, Fr Jan had sexually abused multiple boys. He was arrested in 1979 and confessed to the offences but after a week in prison was allowed sick leave. His case was dismissed in 1980 by the Public Prosecutor’s office in The Hague. The reason for that decision is unclear and the dossier has since been destroyed.
Only five years later, Fr Jan started work as a priest in a parish in Terneuzen, part of the Breda diocese, where his history was not known. In 1990, the priest was found guilty of the sexual abuse of a number of boys. He was given four months’ suspended sentence and ordered to do 160 hours of community service.
Fr Spronck’s evidence seems to absolve the Breda diocese of blame. He admitted that a warning would probably have prevented Fr Jan from committing more sexual abuse. The Salesians’ inaction “may have been rather regrettable,” he told the NOS Dutch public service broadcaster.
What did the cardinal know?
Now, it’s Cardinal Simonis’ turn to testify about what he knew of the earlier case in Rijswijk. At the time, he was bishop of Rotterdam, and Rijswijk is in the Rotterdam diocese. It is hoped his statements will show whether there is enough evidence to bring a civil case for damages against the diocese of Breda.
A growing Hispanic population in the US church coupled with the shrinking priest population has created a vacuum within the Church that has been filled by lay ministers. Joyce’s article tells the story of one such organization, Christo y Yo, designed to fill the gaps between the Hispanic faithful and the lack of ordained ministers.
In 2008, Katia Birge joined Christo y Yo after moving back to her native Denver. Birge, then 25, had gone off to college and was working when her juvenile rheumatism debilitated her. She came back to Denver. Birge was in pain and distressed to find herself dependent on her parents after years of independence. Raised in a bilingual home, Birge sought solace in a Christo y Yo, a charismatic Hispanic church group for young adults. What she found was anything but.
According to Joyce’s article, Christo y Yo drew as many as 500 participants from around the Denver diocese, including 100 from Birge’s St. Catelan parish alone. It was run by a Mexican lay minister, Juan Carlos Hernandez, a dynamic and outwardly pious preacher in his mid-30’s. Hernandez and Birge formed a fast friendship primarily based around faith and theology. However, the relationship grew complicated after the two kissed at Hernandez’s home. Several weeks later, Birge asked Hernandez to come over for a talk about where they stood. According to Birge’s testimony, Hernandez ended up driving her to a dark and secluded part of town where he raped her.
Police have taken statements from another eight former students who attended the Maitland-Newcastle Catholic diocese St Pius X High School at Adamstown in the late 1970s.
The alleged victims of Denham came forward after the former priest was jailed for 13 years and 10 months in July last year, after pleading guilty to multiple charges involving 39 boys aged 5 to 16, between 1968 and 1986.
A Strikeforce Georgiana detective said the eight alleged victims were all from the Hunter, and had all attended St Pius during the time Denham was a teacher at the school.
The matter was still under investigation and police would like to speak to anyone with information about alleged child sex abuse at the school. Calls to Strikeforce Georgiana can be made through Charlestown police station.
A Denham victim who was in court when Denham was sentenced said he was pleased that another eight alleged victims had come forward.
"We all knew they were there," he said. "It was just a matter of time before more of them came forward so it's no shock that they have. I would expect there'll be more and I'd encourage people to come forward."
The Newcastle man said he was happy that he made a statement to police and had his charges included in the case that eventually jailed the Catholic priest.
"I'm happy that I came forward because otherwise, who knows where he could have ended up?" he said.
Catholic Herald (United Kingdom)
More than 140 Catholic theologians from universities in Austria, Germany and Switzerland have called for the Church to end priestly celibacy, ordain women and allow lay people to help select bishops, among other changes.
The 143 professors said their appeal was made in response to the clergy sexual abuse scandals that surfaced in Europe last year and that they no longer could remain silent in the face of what they say is a lingering crisis within the Catholic Church.
The theologians, who also called for the Church to welcome same-sex couples and divorced and remarried couples, said their statement was issued to open a discussion about the future of the Church.
Tuesday, February 1, 2011
A Catholic order in the Netherlands has undertaken to pay compensation to more than two dozen victims of sexual abuse committed by its priests, the order and victims said on Tuesday.
The Order of Salesians of Don Bosco reached a deal to make "generous" restitution to individuals who fell victim to sexual abuse by priests as pupils at its boarding schools between 1950 and 1971, a joint statement said.
"Victims of sexual abuse ... have reached a concrete agreement with the Salesians on the restitution demanded," it added.
"It concerns financial and emotional compensation, an apology," a spokesman for the victims group, who asked not to be named, told AFP, adding the agreement listed "at least 26 victims".
Sexual abuse by Salesian priests was mainly committed at a boarding school of the Don Rua monastery in the town of 's-Heerenberg in the east Netherlands, which hosted between 50 and 140 children aged 12 to 18 every school year between 1958 and 1971.
There were also claims at other Salesian boarding schools, dating back to 1950, including in the town of Assel.
Details on the exact mode of compensation will be finalised in the next three weeks.
"The aim is to get the perpetrators involved in the process," said the spokesman.
An independent commission tasked with probing allegations of sexual abuse in the Dutch Catholic church received 2,000 reports between March and December last year.
The order of Salesians was founded in 1859 by Italian priest John Bosco to help underprivileged young people. It has 16,000 priests and brothers world-wide, of which 55 in the Netherlands.