Catholic child abuse scandal extends to Curaçao

RNW archive

This article is part of the RNW archive. RNW is the former Radio Netherlands Worldwide or Wereldomroep, which was founded as the Dutch international public broadcaster in 1947. In 2011, the Dutch government decided to cut funding and shift RNW from the ministry of Education, Culture and Science to the ministry of Foreign Affairs. More information about RNW Media’s current activities can be found at

A 57-year-old Antillean man living in the Netherlands reveals in an RNW video interview how he was subjected to sexual abuse by two priests as a child on the island of Curaçao.

The two were members of the Tilburg Fathers, the same Roman Catholic order which has been accused in the Netherlands in connection with the sexual abuse of mentally-disabled boys at an institution in the southern town of Boxtel.

The Antillean told Radio Netherlands Worldwide and daily NRC Handelsblad that when he was living at a Roman Catholic boarding school in Soto, Curaçao, he was fondled almost weekly. "It happened in the room of one of the priests," Johnny (whose real name is known to RNW) recalled. "You had to undo your pants and he would fondle your penis. The first time that happens, you are shocked. The second time you hardly dare to enter the room, because you know what is going to happen."

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The head of the Don Sarto school in Soto, another Tilburg Father, was also guilty of abuse, Johnny claims. "I was even fondled at school, but then all pupils were. Even those who were not at the boarding school." Johnny says that he was also physically abused by another priest.

Father Broer Huitema, the General Superior of the Tilburg Fathers, said he is not familiar with Johnny's story, but would like to meet him. "In general I can say that I am more than prepared to have a talk with the victim."

Priests in outposts
In the past priests who were guilty of sex abuse in the Netherlands were transferred, sometimes abroad, Father Huitema said. "They were put into different positions, away from children. They were given an administrative post or were sent out as missionaries. In those days the cases were not reported to the police. The parents were not contacted either."

In the 1960 some 70 members of the congregation were posted on the Netherlands Antilles. Until the end of 1995 they were teaching on the Antilles, in Surinam and in Indonesia.

The Tilburg Fathers were repeatedly accused over the past few weeks. Since the end of February, 36 people told Radio Netherlands Worldwide and NRC Handelsblad about being abused by 44 Tilburg Fathers in schools, boarding schools and orphanages, including the Ruwenberg House in the town of St.Michielsgestel and the St. Nicolaas Institute in Oss. Former group leaders say the priests assaulted pupils of the De La Salle institute for mentally retarded and handicapped boys in the southern town of Boxtel.

General Superior Huitema said the reports of sexual abuse are "revolting", particularly because "our work is directed towards children who are disadvantaged to begin with. The abuse of power, both phycsically and sexually, only adds to the misery."

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide