Serious questions about the guilt of Msgr. Ter Schure

A day after the news broke (or rather, was regurgitated) that former bishop of ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Msgr. Jan Ter Schure, had been one of seven Salesians who abused a boy in the late 1940s, serious questions about the truth behind the matter appear. Current provincial Herman Spronck gave a radio interview today in which he claimed that, during the time of the abuse, then-seminarian Ter Schure had been in Italy for his education:

“We have concluded that Jan Ter Schure was not yet a priest between 1947 and 1951. He was studying theology in Italy at that time. After his ordination in 1951 he was immediately put to work in The Hague. He was therefore not a regular brother at Ugchelen. He would have visited from time to time, but under what circumstances is not known.”

Fr. Herman Spronck

Spronck also raised another important issue regarding this case. He claims that the whole affair had been settled out of court in 2003, and that everything was kept quiet on the express request of the victim.

“That is very odd to me. For seven years he has said that he did not want [the story to become public]. In 2003 everything had been peacefully settled. There would be no more talk about it. We were convinced that we settled matters just fine, in a human and humane way.”

About the 16,000-guilder compensation paid to the victim, Fr. Spronck says: “That was a reparation to the victim, together with apologies. He granted us a final remission, which means that he would not undertake any further actions, neither to the press, nor to others.”

Whatever the truth, perhaps the above goes to show that keeping things quiet, something that is time and again claimed of the Church, is rarely the right solution. The truth will come out eventually, but what the truth is, remains to be seen in this case.

If Jan Ter Schure spent his seminary years in Italy he could hardly have been one of seven regular abusers at the boarding school Don Rua at Ugchelen. But what does the reparation paid in 2003 mean? Did the Salesians conclude that something untoward involving the future bishop had indeed happened? Was there an investigation, were people named?

Many questions remain, including some about the conduct of media and victim. After all, in our legal system, no one can be punished twice for the same crime, so why regurgitate something that had seemingly been settled, albeit out of court?

3 thoughts on “Serious questions about the guilt of Msgr. Ter Schure”

  1. The questions you raise are exactly the same that sprung to my mind. But I also have some additional questions to ask, like how is one going to prove after such a long period the alleged abuse really took place and that the late Msgr. Ter Schure took part in it? E.g. the trial of John Demjanjuk (currently going on in Germany) proves this is very difficult: none of the witnesses was able to recognize Mr. Demjanjuk, so the only evidence he could possibly be convicted upon are documents from Russian archives.

    1. Well, yes, that’s an issue that should cause serious problems if it comes to a trial or some other legal action. With the accused being deceased (and is even one of the other six brothers named still alive?) the evidence will at most be circumstantial. I think there’s very little to gain here, except for a lesson for all the Church: hushing things up is not a good idea.

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