Dutch bishop sexually abused young boy

RNW archive

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A former Dutch bishop committed sexual abuse as a young priest. Bishop Van Luyn of Rotterdam has known of the offence since 2008, but has kept quiet about it.

According to Roman Catholic Church documents in the possession of Radio Netherlands Worldwide and Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad, Jan ter Schure – Bishop of Den Bosch until 1998 – was one of seven priests who abused a boarding school pupil.

The victim, who wishes to remain anonymous, received financial compensation of €16,000 from religious order the Salesian Fathers of Don Bosco. As a boy, he suffered serious sexual abuse at the hands of seven Salesian priests at the Don Rua monastery in Ugchelen between 1948 and 1953.

One of the perpetrators was Jan ter Schure, who went on to become Bishop of Den Bosch.

In 2003, a settlement was reached in which the Salesian Fathers paid the victim financial compensation for “emotional damages”. This took place six months after the death of Jan ter Schure, who served as Bishop from 1985 to 1998.

“Dark secret”
The Don Rua monastery relocated to the town of ’s-Heerenberg at the end of the 1950s. Since February 2010, revelations of widespread sexual abuse at this location have prompted a wave of publicity about sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands.

In March, the Church complaints body Hulp en Recht concluded it was “likely” that the victim had been repeatedly abused by seven priests.

The body “became convinced of this due not only to the manner in which the complaintant recounted his story and the details he provided, but because it also became apparent that the complaintant had been burdened by a dark secret, with the corresponding impact on his life thereafter.”

In its findings, Hulp en Recht also writes that “the Salesian Fathers at that time are to be blamed for the lack of adequate protection and help for a minor entrusted to the care of the order”.

In April, shortly after this conclusion was announced, the most senior representative of the Salesian Fathers in the Netherlands and Flanders, Jos Claes, apologised to the victim on behalf of his order.

Van Luyn ignored appeal
The victim turned to Hulp en Recht after appealing in vain to Bishop Van Luyn of Rotterdam. Van Luyn had been a classmate in Ugchelen and became head of the Salesian Fathers in the Netherlands during the 1970s.

In 2008, the victim wrote several letters to the bishop because, five years after the settlement, he was still anguished by the abuse he had suffered. Bishop Van Luyn did not respond to his repeated requests to publicly denounce the abuses in the order.

Six months after the victim’s first letter, a member of Bishop Van Luyn’s staff sent a reply: “The bishop has taken due notice of the matter on which you have written to him. However, he does not recognise the course of events or the facts you outline with regard to what you claim has been done to you.”

The diocese responds
In response to the present report, the Diocese of Rotterdam states that Bishop Van Luyn referred the victim to the Salesians Fathers of Don Bosco. “The content of the letters (...) relates to the order of the Salesian Fathers over which Monsignor Van Luyn had no administrative authority in 2008.”

The Diocese goes on to say that Bishop Van Luyn personally asked the order to contact the victim. “As a diocesan bishop, Monsignor Van Luyn can unfortunately play no part in matters that concern orders or congregations.

Herman Spronck, Father Superior of the Salesians in the Netherlands has declined to comment.

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