The Dutch bishops and the Conference of Dutch Religious have today fully accepted the proposal for an investigation into sexual abuse in the Catholic Church in the Netherlands, from 1945 to today. Msgr. Gerard de Korte, spokesman on the abuse issues, announced this in a press conference.
This is the text of the press release, in my translation:
Press release Dutch Bishops’ Conference and Conference of Dutch Religious on proposal for investigation sexual abuse
Utrecht, 11 May 2010 – The Dutch Bishops’ Conference and the Conference of Dutch Religious (KNR) have today expansively discussed the proposal for investigation of sexual abuse of minors in the Catholic Church in the Netherlands. They express an honest word of gratitude towards drs. W. J. Deetman who has succeeded in presenting a thorough and very complete proposal on short notice.
The bishops and the manager of the KNR once again emphasise that they condemn forcefully every form of sexual abuse. Abuse is contrary to the Gospel and the dignity of the human person. To those who were victims of abuse within the Catholic Church, religious superiors and bishops again offer their heartfelt sympathy and apologies. Victims who have not yet come forward are called to do so at either Hulp & Recht or the committee.
The number of reports of abuse necessitates a thorough investigation, according to religious superiors and bishops. On 9 March of this year they asked Mr. Deetman to advise them on how to best shape a broad, external and independent investigation. The asked the former chairman of parliament to gather the required expertise, formulate a plan and set out a timeline.
The bishops and the managers of the KNR fully agree with the proposal as it is now and the intended composition of the committee. They promise their full cooperation and will work to make all relevant information available to the committee. In that context they support the call from Mr. Deetman to the perpetrators of sexual abuse to come forward and report to the committee.
Regarding the time line, the bishops and religious superiors agree that priority will be given to advice on the aid to the victims. Although relief is already started through the procedures of Hulp & Recht or through meetings between victims and confidential counsellors of dioceses, orders and congregations, the bishops and religious superiors consider it very important to hear from the committee on short notice whether the available help is desired and how existing procedures may be optimised.
Bishops and managers of the KNR request Mr. Deetman to take on the duties of chairman of the committee. They thank the members of the committee who are willing to participate in the investigation. The religious superiors and the bishops have full confidence that this committee will run a transparent, independent and scientific investigation. That independence and transparency is exactly what the victims have a right to and which is necessary for the Church to help the victims as well as possible and to effectively prevent future abuse.
In my opinion this is the best decision they could have made. This is such an enormous issue, both in size and gravity, that the only way to reach a solution is full openness. A patient can’t cure himself. He needs someone else for that, someone who can clinically and objectively consider the problem, analyse it and search for a solution. In the case of the abuse crisis, the Church needs it to heal and the victims need it be heard and recognised.
Yes, I do expect there will be very painful consequences as more cases emerge and conclusions are drawn. Painful for the victims, for the responsible parties, offenders but certainly also religious superiors and bishops, and painful for all Catholics. But that is what we need now. Healing can hurt sometimes, nothing to be done about it. We can no longer tranquilise ourselves in a culture of silence.
In the course of 2011 there will be a report with an overview of what happened, how it could have happened and exactly what penance and justice, according to Church and state, must be achieved. But the slate will then be clean.