In all affected countries there has been a lot of discussion about the abuse of minors committed by priests, religious and employees of Catholic institutions. Cardinals Kasper and Schönborn have both called for a thorough investigation and a review of the education and formation of priests, respectively. Archbishop Robert Zollitsch of Freiburg im Breisgau, the chairman of the German bishops’ conference is in Rome to confer with the Holy Father.
Closer to home, Bishop Jos Punt of Haarlem-Amsterdam has written a pastoral letter to all the faithful in his diocese, explaining the situation and the decisions made by the bishops’ conference. He points out that the issue is not exclusive to the Church, that it is symptomatic of the excessive sexualisation of society, but he understands society’s need to first look to the Church in this case. He hopes that the victims of abuse in non-ecclesiastic contexts may also be heard.
The bishop’s letter is available, in my translation, here.
In the mean time, the media is abuzz with all kinds of reports. A lawyer wishes to prosecute the Archdiocese of Utrecht as a criminal organisation, two men in Limburg have expressed the desire to financially undress the Church… all understandably emotional responses, but hardly constructive.
From the Protestant side, Dr. A.H. Veerman, preacher in the protestant community in ‘t Harde, offers some thoughts as well. He sees the abuse issue as damaging for all churches. “Most people don’t make a distinction between Catholic and protestant. This is greatly damaging to the Name and case of Jesus Christ.”
Dr. Veerman was promoted in 2005 on a case study on sexual abuse among preachers. “We really can’t say that sexual abuse occurs more in the Roman Catholic Church than in protestant churches. It is true that the abuse that is now revealed in the Roman Catholic Church more often concerns children and young people. In protestant churches it is more about preachers who are sexually out of line towards adults.”
He says that research shows that abuse does not happen more often within churches than without. “But not less either. But that is no excuse – because it shouldn’t happen in the church at all.”
Veerman also says that the structure of the protestant church prevented much serialised abuse. The structure of Catholic boarding schools, for example, meant that one person could do a lot of damage.
When asked if he thought that the celibate life of a priest is one of the causes, he said: “No, not celibacy in itself. I once read somewhere that celibacy is not wrong, but the fact that people with a problematic sexuality use celibacy as an excuse to not work on their problems. That is certainly true. I don’t see celibacy in itself as the cause of this kind of derailment. In protestant churches for example, there are many narcissistic preachers. That is not because of the preacherhood, but of the character of people abusing the preacherhood.”
Lastly, Drs. Wim Deetman, the former cabinet secretary and mayor of The Hague, has spoken today about his task as head of the committee to investigate abuse in the Catholic Church. Some statements:
“My work will focus on the following targets: formulating the research question; establishing methods and fields of investigation; manning the eventual committee; establishing a timeline and guaranteeing an independent, careful and transparent investigation.”
“To achieve these goals I will call on external expertise. In the past days several people have already offered this expertise. That is understandable, but not decisive in the choice that will be made. This phase too will be independent.”
“I expect to finish my work in six to eight weeks. Until that time there will be no further statement to the press.”
About the decision to choose him for the role of principal investigator he said: “I am the right person for this role? I am not Catholic. In Catholic circles there are people with much more knowledge. But the wish to emphasise independence is more important. There is a lot of pain, a lot of sorrow. In such a case, you must have a very good reason to say no.”
Sources: Reformatorisch Dagblad, RKK.nl and Rorate