Dutch bishops shredded sex abuse evidence

RNW archive

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Dutch bishops destroyed incriminating evidence of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. Secret archives of the diocese of Den Bosch, which showed that priests had committed abuse, were shredded.

This is the main allegation made in a statement sent by historian Eric Theloosen to the Deetman Commission in September. The commission, which is investigating child sex abuse in the church, did not respond to the historian. Mr Theloosen researched the diocese’s archives in the 1990s.  Radio Netherlands Worldwide and daily NRC Handelsblad have obtained a copy of his statement.

Secret archives
Mr Theloosen’s statement shows that Bishop Jan Bluyssen of Den Bosch destroyed documents about abuse cases during the 1970s. The documents had been gathered in an archive by his predecessor, Monsignor Wilhelmus Marinus Bekkers. During the 1990s, the diocese of Den Bosch again maintained a secret archive on strayed priests. Built up under Bishop Jan ter Schure, this archive, too, has vanished.

Monsignor Bluyssen (84) and the diocese’s archivist at the time, Jan Peijnenburg (75), have confirmed to NRC Handelsblad that secret archives were destroyed. The Deetman Commission will, as a result, not find any incriminating information on priests in Dutch church archives, according to Mr Peijnenburg. ‘Deetman is welcome to come, but he won’t get anything. And in the archive he will no longer find anything.”

'Chucked out'
Monsignor Bluyssen says he ‘chucked out’ his predecessor’s secret archive. ‘It was over, the cases had been completed. It never occurred to me then that someone might have a question about it. But there wasn’t much interesting stuff in it, that’s why I thought it could be thrown out.’ Monsignor Bluyssen does not want to discuss the matter with Mr Deetman. ‘I will not comply with such a request. I don’t know much about it.’

Earlier this year, the Deetman Commission demanded access to the archives of the Dutch bishops and the superiors of Dutch religious orders, who named the commission. The request was granted. Mr Theloosen’s statement indicates, however, that church archives had already been deliberately purged.

Other achives
Church historian Peter Nissen of Radboud University Nijmegen is ‘shocked at the admissions that incriminating documents have been systematically destroyed.’ Mr Nissen has no doubt that ‘other church archives have received a similar treatment.’

Deetman reaction

The Deetman commission ‘regrets’ that Mr Theloosen never received a reaction. The commission says it has now responded to the historian and that it 'will include the statement in its inquiry.’