The Roman Catholic church paid a Dutchman to keep quiet about sexual abuse by a priest, Dutch current affairs programme Een Vandaag reported on Monday.
Een Vandaag spoke to Mark Klabbers (51) who attended the Canisius College, a Catholic school in the Dutch town of Nijmegen, in the 1970s. Mr Klabbers claims that one of the teachers at the school, a Jesuit priest, abused him during after-school tutoring sessions.
When Mr Klabbers reported the abuse to the church years later, it responded by proposing he sign a contract awarding him 8,000 euros for psychological damage provided he did not speak out about the abuse. The contract explicitly relieves the church of any form of responsibility for the abuse. A church official who co-signed the contract has acknowledged its existence, but refused to comment on it.
The 51-year-old Dutchman believes neither the abuse nor the settlement with the church were isolated cases. He says he knows of at least ten other people who were abused by the same priest. “A friend of mine had a similar meeting with the same church official years after I signed the contract. I remember that he told me that the man had replied ‘oh no, not another one’.”
He also believes that other people within the school were aware of the abuse. “I remember meeting a teacher at the bar several years after I had left the school. The man was a little bit tipsy when I spoke to him. He said something like ‘ah, so you were one of his catamites’.”
“The church should have said ‘we’re going to start an investigation’ or, even better, ‘please report this to the police’,” Dutch attorney Martin de Witte comments. He is preparing a class action suit against the church and is currently investigating how many other people signed similar contract. “They should not have signed some paper in a back room somewhere, saying ‘here you have some money and please keep quiet’. [The church's] way of handling this problem is just not how things are supposed to work.”
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