Deetman’s advice

Deetman during the press conference

In The Hague, Wim Deetman is wrapping up his press conference where he presented the advice that he has given to the Dutch bishops’ conference and the Conference of Dutch Religious (KNR) about how they should tackle the abuse crisis. I’ve been taking notes as the details were given, and there are two main points I want to highlight. First of all the five points on which the investigation must focus, and secondly the people who will form the committee. The two conferences will be discussing the advice on Tuesday. As Dr. Deetman said, his is only an advice. We must wait until Tuesday to see how it will be received and implemented, but, judging by the attitude of the bishops and the KNR towards Deetman’s work, I would be very surprised if they did not take this advice in total.

The five main points of the investigation:

  1. The committee must collect data, either via the existing lists of known victims or, if these are not adequate, via their own survey. They should not only appeal to the victims, but also to the offenders, if these are yet unknown.
  2. Archives: Deetman decided to look at the period from 1945 until now, so that requires a certain amount of archival work. This will also allow show how authorities dealt with abuse in the past.
  3. Comparison: Once collected, the numbers must be compared to the data from outside the Catholic Church and the Netherlands. The question of whether this is a problem endemic to Catholic institutions or to the Netherlands, or if it is wider social problem must be answered. The answers may seem clear now, but they must be supported by facts.
  4. How could it have happened? What is the reason for the ‘culture of silence’, as Deetman put it? Society and the norms that were used, within and without Catholic circles, must be considered, as well as the legal framework. This calls for historical and sociological research.
  5. The future. Advice about that can only be based on the investigation, but it is a clear goal for the committee.

Deetman expects that the investigation will take one year to eighteen months, at the most. Then the answers must be clear.

The committee:

Deetman suggests a core of five people to form the committee. If needed, they can appoint others for specific topics and expertise. They are:

  1. Dr. Nel Draijer, professor in Trauma and Personality at the Medical Centre of the Free University of Amsterdam, for her practical experience.
  2. Mr. Pieter Kalbfleisch, Chairman of the board of the Netherlands Competition Authority, for his experience as a judge.
  3. Prof. Dr. Harald Merkelbach, professor of Psychology at the University of Maastricht and member of the Royal Dutch Academy of Sciences, for the psychological angle.
  4. Prof. Dr. Marit Monteiro, professor of History of Dutch Catholicism at the Radboud University in Nijmegen, for the historical and sociological side.
  5. Prof. Dr. Eng. Gerard de Vries, member of the Scientific Council of Government Policy and professor in Philosophy of Science at the University of Amsterdam, for an empirical weighing of the facts.

This advice generally follow what the conferences asked, but in some cases, Mr. Deetman advised an increased focus on things where he felt that was needed. Among these is the care for the victims. Although the committee will perform a factual investigation, but it will also take an immediate and close look at the support that exists for the victims. As he said, “There is no excess of specialists in the Netherlands”, so in order for the investigation to proceed adequately, the support and guidance that exists must be firmly established and well-documented.

A second point which Deetman added was an agreement with the office of the Attorney General that if there is a suspicion that a crime does not fall under the statute of limitations, those involved will be informed, so that they can still press charges if they so wish.

On Tuesday, the bishops and the KNR will release a press statement in which they’ll respond to this advice.