Friday, February 11, 2011

Cardinal protected abuser
News Reports Say Cardinal Protected an AbuserBy STEPHEN CASTLE
Published: February 10, 2011
LinkedinDiggMixxMySpaceYahoo! BuzzPermalink.BRUSSELS — The sexual abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands deepened Thursday when news reports said one of its senior figures had shielded a pedophile priest.

Reports in three news media outlets increased the pressure on the cardinal, Adrianus Simonis, the retired archbishop of Utrecht, who testified last month as a witness in a legal action taken by one of almost 2,000 people who have said they were victims of abuse.

The crisis in the Netherlands is another setback for the Roman Catholic Church, which has been struggling with sexual abuse allegations from Ireland and Belgium to the United States.

Cardinal Simonis caused some distress in the Netherlands last March, when he was asked on television about the hundreds of complaints surfacing against the church and replied in German rather than Dutch, saying “Wir haben es nicht gewusst” — or “We knew nothing about it.”

The phrase, which is associated with Nazi excuses after World War II, drew uncomfortable parallels for the church, which has been accused of covering up the issue of sexual abuse.

The reports on Thursday, by Radio Netherlands Worldwide, the newspaper NRC Handelsblad and the Dutch television program “Nieuwsuur,” said the cardinal was told by the bishop of Rotterdam at the time, Philippe Bar, that during the 1980s a priest had sexually abused boys in a parish in Zoetermeer. Archbishop Simonis later arranged for the man to be moved to a parish in Amersfoort.

The news reports did not name the priest suspected of abuse.

In a statement issued Thursday, Cardinal Simonis said the priest had been allowed to continue working in a parish only after undergoing lengthy therapy and on the basis of a psychological report. If new evidence about the case emerged that cast doubt on his decision, he said, that would be regrettable.

On Thursday, Martin de Witte, a lawyer acting for several of those who said they had been abused, said the news reports proved that pedophiles had been systematically protected.

“He didn’t do anything,” Mr. de Witte said of the cardinal, adding, “He was not protecting the children; he was protecting the people who did the abuse.”

Figures released in December showed that almost 2,000 people had made complaints of sexual or physical abuse against the church.

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