“Please come forward, because there is a great problem! Not only within the Roman Catholic Church, but in a broader context in society. That problem was created because of the perpetrators and they can help making that problem smaller, also in the interest of victims. So that is a moral call: come forward.”

Words spoken today by Dr. Wim Deetman in a radio interview, aimed at the perpetrators of abuse, sexual and otherwise, within the Catholic Church in the Netherlands. Deetman and his commission gave been working largely in silence since December, but this plea is an important part of the work they are doing. In order to be able to present as complete a picture of the situation and its causes, Deetman needs the perpetrators to come forward just as much, if not more, as the victims have done. The former have until 4 April to do so. And if they don’t? Well, the commission has a list of possible perpetrators and they will be contacting them themselves after 4 April.

“There can be no doubt about that. And a question will then be: why didn’t you come forward? That is also important for the victims to get clarity about the past and so be able to accept the past.”

Many cases that the Deetman commission have been investigating happened many years or decades ago and therefore fall under the statute of limitations. Six cases have been passed on to the Public Prosecutor, but Deetman does not expect that number to rise very much. Closed cases are also not free from investigation.

“When cases have been closed, there may have been good reasons, let me make that clear. But you should investigate if that has happened with just cause. I can’t bear to think that I get asked at the end of the year: did you consider that they were closed for bad reasons? And that the answer would then be: no, we just mindlessly assumed so, but didn’t look into it. That can’t be true.”

The bishops and the Conference of Dutch Religious accept and support Deetman’s call. They will communicate it internally in orders and dioceses, and, by mouth of Bishop Gerard de Korte and Brother Cees van Dam, have said they won’t just appeal to the conscience of people but also make use the legal measures available within dioceses, orders and congregations.

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