A sad case – press statements about the Heel affair

Various other news sources have already reported about the conclusion from an investigation into a series of unexplained deaths of young boys at a Catholic institute (pictured) for mentally handicapped boys in the 1950s. It is a story of people not taking responsibility, both in the institute, the Diocese of Roermond and the Labour Inspection office of the government. The guilty party has been identified as one Brother Andreas, now deceased, who was not qualified to treat the boys in question, but the medical doctor and rector of the institute, which was run by the Brothers of Charity, also must be considered (partly) responsible. The same may also go for several diocesan officials, who ordered a limited investigation, but decided not to do anything with the results.

Following the extensive investigation into sexual abuse of minors in the Catholic Church in the Netherlands, conducted by the Deetman Committee, the Public Prosecutor started an investigation into what happened all those years ago. No one involved, alive or not, can be legally prosecuted because of the passage of time.

For the sake of completeness, and for the use of anyone interested, here follows the English translation of the press release of the Diocese of Roermond concerning this matter:

The Diocese of Roermond has taken notice of the results of the Public Prosecutor’s criminal investigation concerning the St. Joseph’s Institute in Heel in the 1950s, released today (Thursday 28 June). The report’s conclusion are considered as shocking.

The diocese finds it inexplicable that the diocese made no report to the authorities and regrets that the investigation did not clarify the motives. Nevertheless, the fact that all means were used to reach a balanced perception of the events at the time is laudable.

The diocese especially wishes to pay attention to the suffering of the victims and the sorrows of their relatives.

The Conference of Dutch Religious released a more extensive, if broadly similar press statement, adding that no further investigation will be undertaken into the actions (or lack thereof) of the medical doctor and others involved. In a way that’s understandable, since none of those people are alive today, but I can’t help thinking that this Brother Andreas is presented as a scapegoat. But consider his membership of the Brothers of Charity and his function with the institute, there are superiors who must share in the responsibility.

Photo credit: ANP

Quo vadis?

On this day on which the Church celebrates two of her foundation stones, and 44 successors of these stones receive the signs of the fullness of their episcopacy, it is good to ask ourselves the question that, tradition tells us, Saint Peter asked the Lord, when he encountered Him on the road leading out of Rome. As Peter was fleeing the persecutions he suffered in the city, the Lord came towards him, heading back to where Peter came from. “Lord, where are You going?”, seemingly less surprised at meeting Jesus than at seeing Him head in a direction where He would be less than welcome.

Peter’s question is also our question. Peter was afraid, and we are also often afraid of the consequences that an active Christian life brings. After all, it is rarely in line with society’s thinking, and may provoke misunderstanding, even hostility. But we should remember that our Christian life is not a road that we have to find alone. We are following someone. Jesus Christ has gone this road before. Therefore, we should not hesitate to ask HIm, if things get tough or painful, “Lord, where are you going?” And wherever He goes, we will go with Him, knowing that we are not alone, whatever befalls us, good or bad. Jesus goes the road ahead of us, even if we hesitate, take a wrong turn or double back.

Saint Peter has shown us this. Upon meeting Jesus on the road, He understood that He was a follower of Christ, and found the courage to go where He went before Him.

“I am going to Rome, to be crucified again.”

Art credit: Domine, quo vadis? by Annibale Carracci (1602)