Salesian priest admits to child sex abuse

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Salesian priest Jan Nelissen has admitted to sexually abusing several underage boys in a parish in the town of Terneuzen in the 1980s, but denied drugging and raping them.

The 88-year-old priest made his statement during a preliminary hearing. One of the priest’s victims, identified only as Dave, is now suing the Breda diocese for damages, claiming the then-bishop Huub Ernst must have known about Jan Nelissen’s history of child sex abuse.

Past secrets
In the 1970s, the accused was dismissed from his position as the director of a boarding school run by the Salesians of Don Bosco following accusations of child sex abuse.

His history of child sex abuse was not discussed when he applied to be a parish worker in Terneuzen. Neither then-Bishop Huub Ernst nor the Terneuzen parish ever brought up the priest’s past.

In 1980, child sex abuse charges against Jan Nelissen were inexplicably dropped, despite a confession. He became a priest in Terneuzen in 1984. Jan Nelissen was later convicted on charges of abusing at least five underage boys between 1987 and 1990. 

"Drugged and raped"
In a statement before the Middelburg court, one of the victims said he was drugged and raped twice by the priest in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The witness said seven children in the village of Zaamslag and 15 chilren in Terneuzen were abused by the priest.

Denial
Cardinal Ad Simonis, who was also heard in the case, said that when he was bishop of Rotterdam he had no knowledge of the priest’s history of child sex abuse. Bishop Huub Ernst, who hired Jan Nelissen in 1984, said that he did not know at the time that the Salesian priest had abused boys in the 1970s.

(gsh/ae)