An angry post

I am angry. Angry and upset. At the stupidity of one man in particular, pictured to the left, and the 1970’s attitude he displays towards sexuality, children and, yes, abuse.

The man appeared in this blog before. He is Fr. Herman Spronck, the superior of the Salesian of Don Bosco in the Netherlands. Yesterday, an interview with him was published by RTL. In it, he defends the membership of a Salesian of a pedophile’s club, his incidents of indecent exposure (“not such a serious misdemeanor”) and reveals he thought it enough to urge said man to not break the law. But the real clincher comes later in the interview, when Spronck is asked about his own opinions of sexuality and sexual contact with minors. My thoughts in red.

What is your own opinion about sexual relations between adults and children. Should these be allowed?

There are of course certain social norms to which everyone should keep. But you can wonder if those do not go too far. Formally  [only formally, because it is expected of you?] I always say that everyone should keep to the law . But such relations need not necessarily be harmful.

You think that relations between adults and children are not necessarily harmful?

I have an example of that. I was once approached by a 14-year-old boy who had a relationship with an older religious brother. That was no longer allowed and the boy was really troubled by that, he was even harmed by it. He told, “Fr. Herman, why do you want to forbid that?” Well, what do you say to such a boy? [Since when is a 14-year-old able to discern the right course of action, especially if he has already been abused by an adult? It was up to Spronck, as it is up to all adults, to protect children, sometimes also from themselves.]

So, those relations between adults and children should be allowed?

Personally I do not definitively denounce relationships between adults and children. Do you know Foucault? The philosopher. Do you know his writings? No? Perhaps you should read them, especially the introduction to Part 4 [I’m not familiar with Foucault. Anyone willing to share some thoughts about said introduction?]. It does depend on the child. We shouldn’t consider age so rigidly. You should never break into the personal space of a child if the child does not want that, but that has to do with the child itself. There are also children who themselves indicate that it is okay. Sexual contact is then also possible. [Sexual contact with minors is never okay! Children, especially in early puberty, need our guidance, like they need the guidance of parents and teachers. They are not adults yet, although they often think they are, and should not be treated so.]

He also continues to say that the abuse claims of people who were victims of Salesians in boarding schools are mostly lies, and that it is all very understandable that religious had sex with minors.

I am angry. I am disgusted. And I wonder if this man is going to get away with all this. I certainly do not hope so.

Saint Don Bosco, pray for all the victims of sexual abuse, especially committed by men who claim to follow your rule. Do not keep from them the relief of pain, and the understanding and recompense that is their day. Also pray for a change of heart in the people who continue to defend and promote these crimes, which touch upon the very heart of children entrusted to the care of adults. Hear my prayer.

Bishops, Nuncio, Conference of Dutch Religious, the ball is in your court now.


15 thoughts on “An angry post”

  1. Met veel instemming je post gelezen. Ook ik voel me kwaad. Ik heb je blog ook doorgestuurd naar mijn abt (die nu bij jullie de priester en diakenwijdingen bijwoond), omdat je goed verwoord wat ik ook voel.

    Op je vraag wie Michel Foucault is; hij was een postmodern filosoof en overigens ook degene die indertijd toen ik hem voor mijn studie moest bestuderen, mijn seculiere levensbeschouwing aan het wankelen heeft gebracht. Samen met Nietzsche vind ik hem een van de meest consequente doordenkers van ‘de dood van God’ en wat er dan over zou schieten. Alleen de ‘wille zur macht’

    Zie wikipedia:

    1. Ik zal Foucault aan mijn leeslijst toevoegen. Misschien dat ik er de tijd voor heb om eens wat van zijn gedachten te lezen. Bedankt voor de uitleg!

  2. Basically, Foucault says that truth is different for each each era. Except Foucault was talking about epistémes, paradigms of scientific discourse, not moral or social truths. He was talking about the difference between Newton and Einstein, not Machiavelli and Kant. Foucault would say that we have adopted a more and more naturalistic view in how we perceive the world,
    but he wouldn’t claim that morality is arbitrary, or use that as a justification to do whatever you want.

    1. From another philosopher-friend, I heard that Foucault claimed that modernism would lead to the suppression of free sexuality. That would certainly fit with the comments made by Spronck.

  3. Well NOTHING is going to happen to Fr. Herman Spronck lot of priest and bishops thinks like him.

    Where r the authorities when we need them?

    1. That’s an uninformed and rather ignorant claim. Do you know what all, or even most, priests and bishops think? I don’t think so. It is said that the bishops and the conference of Dutch religious are using this weekend to come up with steps against Spronck and the man he defended.

      Ad as for the authorities: it is true that neither man broke the law. Their comments are extremely unwise and repulsive, but they do fall within the freedom of speech. The only authorities who can, will and should act are their own superiors, as well as all Catholics, who have a right to call them upon their opinions and words.

  4. Wow. This is so obviously wrong. It is amazingly sad. A 14 year old is a child who needs to be guided into healthy relationships. He needs to be taught the right way to handle his developing sexuality….So sad. I don’t know what the laws are here in the Netherlands about adult child relationships, but in the U.S. where i come from this would be illegal. How is this guy a Catholic priest?

    1. It’s equally illegal in the Netherlands. If one of the parties in a relationships is underage, adults should be extremely prudent. Sexual contact of a 14-year-old with an adult would usually be considered rape or molestation, I think. The law is somewhat fluent if both parties are near the age of 18, say 17 and 19, but usually this is the rule.

      This man, it seems, is a product of the 60s and 70s, a time when even established political parties here called for legalising pedophilia…

      1. You’re mostly right. Sexual relations between adults and minors (under 18) are illegal in The Netherlands. Prosecution will always take place if the minor is under the age of 16 (child rape or molestation), but between 16 and 18 only after a complaint has been lodged. Judges are indeed (still) free to be lenient in e.g. a case of a voluntary reationship between a 17-year old and a 19-year old. But they’re not likely to be lenient if the 19-year old happens to be a pimp who has lured a minor into prostitution.

  5. What worries me is that the Salesians specialise in access to vulnerable adolescents – talk of the fox guarding the hen house.
    This man Spronck I’d the head of the Salesians in the Netherlands and, as long as he remains so, speaks for them.
    He talks of the need (not morally but to avoid arrest) formally to keep one’s hands off children.
    As a priest, nowhere does he mention the Catholic church’s position that (1) nobody may have any kind of sex outside marriage and (2) priests (in almost all cases) many not marry.
    My wife and I know two young Salesian seminarians – they sneak to the Extraordinary Form when they can. They complain they are being trained as social workers, not priests.
    Putting it all together, it would seem the order no longer believes in a day of judgment.

  6. Wow. Just wow. The stupidity of the 60s and 70s is the horrible gift that just keeps on giving.

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