Report finds Dutch religious abused ‘tens of thousands’ of girls

Catholic Church offers apology to victims after report published

is unlikely to be established more accurately.

The report, published yesterday, brought an immediate apology from the Catholic Church, which said that not only had the victims been blameless, but they had been entitled to live and study safely in the homes and schools where much of the abuse took place.

In a statement last night, the church said the victims were entitled to apologies from the bishops and superiors of the religious orders who had failed to protect them. It also said there should be a period of “recognition and healing” in tandem with financial compensation.

The 1,100-page first report of the Deetman commission – chaired by former Dutch education minister Wim Deetman – shocked the Netherlands last year when it revealed that 800 Catholic priests and monks abused as many as 20,000 children in their care between 1945 and 1985.


It said the abuse took place in boarding schools, children’s homes and orphanages, but was not openly acknowledged by the church authorities because of their “culture of silence” and determination “not to hang out their dirty washing”.

What surprised the Deetman investigators was the scale of the abuse of women and girls. In just one home for children with mental disabilities, 40 girls under the age of 12, many just babies and toddlers, died over a three-year-period in the 1950s. As a result it was decided to make this the focus of a second report.

Yesterday’s report examines in detail a sample 150 cases of sexual abuse and physical or psychological violence. Three cases are so serious they are to be referred to the public prosecutor – even though technically they are outside the statute of limitations. The report said 40 per cent of the 150 cases involved “severe sexual abuse”, and the perpetrators had almost always been priests, brothers and other male clerics.

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey

Peter Cluskey is a journalist and broadcaster based in The Hague, where he covers Dutch news and politics plus the work of organisations such as the International Criminal Court