While he was Archbishop of Utrecht, Cardinal Ad Simonis shielded a paedophile priest. The cardinal knew about the man’s paedophile past when he transferred him to a parish in Amersfoort, where the priest again sexually abused children.
The revelations follow research by Radio Netherlands Worldwide, the NRC Handelsblad newspaper and Dutch television programme Nieuwsuur.
In 2010, Wim Eijk, who succeeded Cardinal Simonis as archbishop of Utrecht, banned the man from practicing as a priest because of his sex abuse. Cardinal Simonis, who served as archbishop from 1983 to 2007, had failed to take similar action. The Dutch prosecution service says six of the priest’s victims reported incidents to the police from 1987 to 2008. Dozens of children in total are thought to have been abused.
Responding to questions about the case, Cardinal Simonis says that “a well-known behavioural psychologist had said it was safe to appoint the priest to a new post. […] In the end, partially on the strength of the psychologist’s statement, assent was given” to the priest’s appointment.
Conviction hushed up
The cardinal was told by the then bishop of Rotterdam, Philippe Bär, that the priest had sexually abused underage boys in his parish in Zoetermeer. Bishop Bär wanted the priest out of his diocese. Archbishop Simonis then arranged for the man to be moved to a parish in Amersfoort.
The cardinal kept the Amersfoort parish in the dark about the priest’s paedophile behaviour and convictions. The priest himself says the cardinal did nothing to monitor how the situation developed. Cardinal Simonis also did nothing to prevent the priest from being transferred in 2005 to a parish in Eindhoven in the Den Bosch diocese.
Parents who complained about the priest to Cardinal Simonis were given no assistance. Hanneke Brunt, whose altar-boy son was abused: “Simonis told me – ‘This doesn’t go on in the Roman Catholic Church. We don’t do that.’” Abuse victim E. Meester says Cardinal Simonis “wilfully and knowingly gave a paedophile his protection, when he should have been protecting the faithful under his care.”
The cardinal, now retired, caused a furore last year when he commented on the abuse in an interview on a television programme. Speaking in German, he said: “Wir haben es nicht gewusst (We did not know)”. He says he dealt with all the cases of abuse that were brought to his attention “extremely carefully”.
In 1997, the Roman Catholic Hulp en Recht (Help and Justice) complaints agency concluded the church had done nothing for one of the priest’s victims: “There is no evidence that any kind of attempt was made to rectify or alleviate the desperation he had been made to suffer.”
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