Dutch Catholic-run institutions castrated boys for 'homosexual feelings'

Wed, Mar 21, 2012, 00:00

THE CATHOLIC Church in the Netherlands has been hit by a new sex abuse scandal following the revelation that up to a dozen teenage boys may have been castrated while in the care of church-run psychiatric institutions during the 1950s.

Minutes of board meetings held at the institutions show that government health inspectors were present in some cases when decisions were taken to forcibly castrate young boys because they were allegedly showing evidence of “homosexual feelings”.

The minutes also reveal that the directors of the institutions felt they were entitled to take the decisions without any reference to the boys’ parents, some of whom were never officially informed – and many of whom found out only after their sons, still minors, had undergone the operations.

The barbarity of the individual stories have horrified the Dutch public, who have been doubly shocked by the fact that although the castrations were uncovered by the Deetman commission – set up in 2010 to investigation clerical sex abuse – they were not included in its 1,100-page report, published before Christmas.

The report confirmed that more than 800 Catholic priests and monks abused as many as 20,000 children in their care between 1945 and 1985. It concluded that knowledge of this was widespread and accused religious orders, dioceses and even congregations of failing to help the victims or take action against the abusers.

However, investigators working for the commission – chaired by former education minister Wim Deetman – are now understood also to have been informed two years ago, in writing, about the castrations.

They say they decided not to mention them in the commission’s report because “there were too few leads for further research”.

MPs, however, have refused to accept that explanation, saying it casts doubt over the veracity of the entire report. They’ve demanded that Mr Deetman, a member of the council of state, attends a special parliamentary hearing to give more details of why mention of the castrations was suppressed.

They say they also want to ask Mr Deetman why his report included no mention of allegations that in 1968 a high-profile politician with the Catholic People’s Party (KVP) attempted to help several priests convicted of abusing children to avoid serving prison sentences.

That politician, the late Vic Marijnen, was prime minister from 1963 to 1965, as well as chairman of a children’s home in Gelderland province where dozens of children were sexually abused – including 16-year-old Henk Heithuis, whose decision to go to the police led to him becoming the first boy chosen for castration.

There are now calls for a full-scale parliamentary investigation into the abuse scandal because of growing concerns about the neutrality of the Deetman commission. “It’s now clear that there were instances of abuse that were inexplicably not included in the commission’s report,” said Laura Huisman, a spokesperson for the Liberal Party (VVD), led by Dutch prime minister Mark Rutte.

“We want a debate as soon as possible to find out why,” Ms Huisman added.