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Dutch Catholic Church apologizes for abuse

Dec. 16, 2011 at 2:00 PM   |   Comments

AMSTERDAM, Netherlands, Dec. 16 (UPI) -- A report that some 20,000 Dutch children were sexually abused in Roman Catholic institutions drew an apology from Catholic bishops in the Netherlands Friday.

The report by an independent commission said church officials had "failed to adequately deal" with 10,000 to 20,000 instances of rape and other sexual abuse they had received since 1945, The New York Times reported. The panel said complaints had been leveled against about 800 clergy and lay church workers, of which 105 were still alive, the U.S. newspaper said.

The Irish Times reported the commission accused the church of covering up the abuse and fostering a culture of silence regarding the thousands of instances of abuse at seminaries, boarding schools, orphanages and other church facilities.

DutchNews.nl reported the 1,100-page report elicited an expression of "shock," "shame" and "sorrow," from Dutch Catholic leaders.

"The perpetrators are not the only ones to blame," the country's bishops and other top Catholic officials said in a statement. "Church authorities who did not act correctly … share this blame."

The statement went on to say in the future the church will take "all measures provided for under church and civil law when there is any suspicion of sexual abuse" and prosecutors will be alerted.

"The [religious] orders were dealing with cases. The idea that people did not know it and administrators did not know it cannot be maintained," the Irish newspaper quoted Wim Deetman, a Protestant former education minister and former mayor of The Hague who led the commission, as saying.

The abuse at Catholic institutions was not unique, however, the commission said. The BBC reported the commission found that one in five children who attended an institution, regardless of religious affiliation, was abused during the period.

"Sexual abuse of minors is widespread in Dutch society," the commission said.

Sexual abuse by Catholic priests and others associated with the church has been a global scandal for which Pope Benedict XVI has apologized.

A probe was commissioned by the Conference of Bishops and the Dutch Religious Conference in 2010 after it was revealed pedophile priests had been found in the Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, Germany, Australia, Canada and the United States.

© 2011 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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