Child sex abuse: Catholic church leader admits he knew

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The child sex abuse scandal within the Dutch Catholic Church is deepening with the admission for the first time from the country's most senior church figure that he was aware of abuse in the 1970s and 80s. 

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Bishop of Rotterdam Ad van Luyn, who now chairs the Netherlands Synod of Bishops, knew of concrete cases of sexual abuse during his time as head of the Salesian order between 1975 and 1981.

The revelation has been confirmed to Radio Netherlands Worldwide by the Bishop's spokesman. 

This is the first time that Van Luyn has admitted knowing about abuse during the period that he was in charge of the order. The Bishop says he will only say more about this when an independent investigation, called by the church, is completed.

Ad van Luyn called for an independent inquiry within days of the child sex abuse scandal being revealed by Radio Netherlands Worldwide and the NRC Handelsblad newspaper. He himself will now be investigated.

It is not clear whether Mgr Van Luyn took immediate action when he learned about the cases of sexual abuse. This will be one of the elements that will be investigated during the inquiry that has been set up by the Synod of Bishops. "The way in wich congregations and dioceses dealt with these allegations will be a key part of our investigations", a spokesperson for Mgr Van Luyn told Radio Netherlands Worldwide.

Flood of claims
Since the story broke a month ago, there has been a flood of new claims of abuse involving Catholic institutions throughout the country. 

The church's own body set up to deal with these issues, Hulp en Recht (Help and Justice), has received more than 1,100 claims of abuse.

The first allegations which came to light a month ago went back to the 1960s and 70s and related to at least three and possibly more pupils being abused at the school attached to the Don Rua monastery of the Salesians of Don Bosco.

Bishop Van Luyn was provincial head of the Salesian order at the time of the abuse, and a teacher at the school.