Child Sexual Abuse within the Dutch Catholic Church

Tell me if you’ve heard this one before…

An independent Commission of Inquiry was conducted recently, investigating historical child sexual abuse within the Dutch Roman Catholic Church.

They found tens of thousands of victims and (wait for it) about 800 possible perpetrators over the span of around 60 years. It’s incredible how much “sin” took place in a place that’s supposed to be holy.

Statistics indicate that, in general, child sexual abuse is vastly under-reported, so the numbers are likely far higher than what was found.

Why does this happen? Here are a few possible theories as to why the sexual abuse of children remains quite prominent within the Church:

  1. Child sex abusers are drawn to a profession where they will have ample opportunities to work with young children where they are in a position of power, authority, and trust.
  2. The repression of sexuality that is mandatory within the Catholic Church leads to “unhealthy” sexual behaviours.
  3. The perpetrators themselves also grew up within the Church and possibly had their own sexual abuse experiences and are thus perpetuating the abuse cycle.
  4. Religion urges followers (including innocent children) to trust people they might otherwise be wary of.

Wim Deetman, the former government minister who commissioned this investigation seems to agree with at least one of those theories (Yes, I know, I’m quoting FOX News. I apologize).

Deetman said the inquiry could not establish a “scientific link” between priests’ celibacy and abuse, but he added, “we don’t consider it impossible… maybe if there was voluntary celibacy a number of problems would not have happened.”

(If celibacy became voluntary, would any priests really opt for it?)

It will also come as no surprise that the church attempted to conceal the dismal facts.

“Bishops and other church authorities were not ignorant of the problem of sexual abuse. Moreover, in the view of the Commission of Inquiry, in many cases they failed to take adequate action and paid too little attention to victims,” the report says.

Not to mention that Church staff who had been accused of such crimes were often sent to other institutions to teach but never actually admonished. The protection of the Church was paramount to the protection of innocent children. This is, of course, not the first time cover ups have occurred — just ask the Pope.

The Dutch Church set up a fund for financial compensations to the victims, scaled based on the nature and severity of the abuse and are making some other attempts at reparation. While I suppose that something is better than nothing, it’s not nearly enough. Acknowledgement and change needs to happen on a much larger scale.

While I often wish that the confines of religion were abolished, I don’t feel overly optimistic about that possibility. In the meantime, parents need to educate their children about what sexual abuse is and how to keep themselves safe. Blind faith in a non-existent god is one thing, but parents need not have blind faith in religious “leaders.” Young children believe what they are told, especially by those they trust. Most children also have an innate sense of what is right or wrong. When you advise children to fully trust in people merely because they are “servants” to your god, and you assume they are therefore good people, you rob that child of the vital ability to use their intuition. Compound this with the guilt and shame that is plentiful within most religions (especially when it comes to that sinful sexual stuff) and you create a terrible situation where a child is not likely to disclose what’s happening to them and the abuse continues.

I work professionally with children who have experienced sexual abuse and I am by no means claiming that most sexual abuse happens within the confines of religion, because it doesn’t. However, religion has the tendency to override rationality and good judgment. Parents need to acknowledge that religion does not make you any more moral than others and that bad people will do bad things… so teach your children to recognize those people.

I would give this same advice to all parents, religious or not: Protect your children. Because there probably isn’t a god out there doing it for you.

About katied

Katie is a Child & Family Therapist who works with children who have experienced trauma or abuse. She currently resides in beautiful British Columbia, Canada.

  • Silo Mowbray

    I hate these reports. I have small children of my own, and the thought of them or any other child being hurt like that…

    I feel like crying, raging and vomiting all at the same time.

  • Mike Hitchcock


    Protect your children. Because there probably isn’t a god out there doing it for you.”

    No ‘probably’ about it.

  • http://twitter.com/Kahomono Kahomono

    (If celibacy became voluntary, would any priests really opt for it?)

    I think if celibacy became voluntary, the proportion of priests who are sexually dysfunctional would eventually approach the proportion in the general population, as opposed to the current proportion being skewed vastly higher by unnatural demands.

  • Michael

    5. Peadophiles are attracted to jobs where they will be expected to be sexually inactive and expect it will help them control their unhealthy urges. It doesn’t work.

  • gski

    I disagree that celibacy leads to child abuse.  Wouldn’t an otherwise normal guy visit prostitutes or the nuns?

  • Andrew Morgan

    “I work professionally with children who have experienced sexual abuse
    and I am by no means claiming that most sexual abuse happens within the
    confines of religion, because it doesn’t.”

    Highly relevant SMBC:  http://www.smbc-comics.com/index.php?db=comics&id=2234

  • Stephen P

    And it could well be worse still. In the early 1950′s there was a highly-suspicious series of 34 deaths at the Catholic-run St Joseph’s institution in Heel, in the south-east of the Netherlands.

  • Ronlawhouston

    I don’t see it as an issue of whether God exists.  It is about a cognitive bias we all have regarding trust in authority.   Turn up the juice Professor Milgram.

  • Anonymous

    (If celibacy became voluntary, would any priests really opt for it?)

    Considering all priests have opted for a life that requires them to be celibate, I’d have to say yes.

    The real question might be ‘why would anyone opt for a life of celibacy?’ In at least some cases, I wonder if the answer isn’t because their sexual desires scare or revolt them.

  • http://www.gratefultobeofthisworld.blogspot.com/ Dea

    I don’t think the celibacy issue causes problems, but like another poster says might be that the abusers are attracted to a celibate, holy life hoping to “redeem” or “protect” themselves from their dysfunction (sexual attraction to children). But I also don’t like this argument for other reasons – one, as mentioned, is there is no scientific connection between celibacy and peadophiles – and two some churches like that because they let their religious partners marry, it makes their churches immune from this type of predatory sexual abuse – which is simply not the case at all. There are plenty of married peadophiles, and churches all over the world protect their religious leaders if they can. It certainly happened to folks I know.

  • Newavocation

    Accountability!!! Some things don’t stop until the church members demand accountability or shut the places down. I guess the same could be said about our latest crop of political candidates. Quit supporting and voting for them. Would you keep going to a restaurant that served crappy food? Nothing changes without real demands for accountability. 

  • Anonymous

    Recognition of past wrongs is good. Prosecution of perpetrators is better still. However it cannot stop there.
    I’m disgusted how it is somehow deemed enough for church authorities to recognize and apologize for doing nothing about or actively enabling the abuse of children. It’s nice that you’re sorry, please put your hands behind your back, you are under arrest. If you know about a suboordinate of yours abusing children and do not go to the police, and especially if you collaborate in keeping the thing quiet, you are not merely irresponsible, you are an accomplice, and should be prosecuted as such.

    The same goes, by the way, for civil authorities. In many cases victims have gone to police only to be disbelieved or dismissed. If someone comes to you with allegations of child sexual abuse, you are obligated to investigate, no matter what kind of uniform the alleged abuser wears.

  • Belgian Christadelphians

    After the Fall (the first sinful choice the first man and woman made) God has given men the right to do everything themselves. Men is responsible himself for his deeds. (God has nothing to do with it.) You wrote “Protect your children. Because there probably isn’t a god out there doing it for you.” God is protecting His children but He does not interfere with every human action people choose to do themselves. The guilty one is the person who does something wrong. It was his choice to do something wrong, and God is not a dictator who let only happen what He wants.

    • JohnnieCanuck

      So your God is not Omniscient, Omnipresent, Omnibenevolent or Omnipotent, then? What is He part-time employed?

      “God is protecting His children but [...]” But what? He protects them from everything that doesn’t happen to them? Is that what He gets credit for? Maybe He only gets credit for the things that someone prayed wouldn’t happen that didn’t.

      If I had to summarise your comment, it would be; protect your children because probably God won’t do it for you.

      To which the appropriate reply is “No probably about it”. Imaginary gods can only get credit for imaginary miracles.

  • Marcus Ampe

    The abuse of children in the church has nothing to do with God. The human person is himself responsible for her deeds. Churches are institutions of men not of God.
    god has given men free will and allows it to use how they like it. If he would every time interfere with everything he did not like He would come over as a potentate and nothing would be proven about the Fall in the Garden of Eden.

    • JohnnieCanuck

      Nothing to do with God, everything to do with the priests and their superiors. There’s no more point in blaming an imaginary god than in blaming an imaginary devil.

      There was no Garden, no Fall, no Original Sin and no Divine Sacrifice. Simple like that.


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