Monday, March 7, 2011

Abuse probe
How independent is Catholic sex abuse probe?
Published on : 4 March 2011 - 1:26pm | By Robert Chesal (Photo: Clipart) More about: Catholic Church sex abuseDeetman CommissionHollandMadeleine van ToorenburgMartin de WitteNetherlandsnewsWim Deetman
The investigation into sex abuse in the Dutch Catholic Church came up for discussion in parliament on Thursday. Former MP Wim Deetman is carrying out the probe on behalf of the Church. But is he independent enough? Or should there be a parliamentary inquiry?

Wim Deetman knew right from the start that he would be facing some critical MPs. He needed to come up with a success story, otherwise the cabinet might decide to step in. Luckily he did have some good news. In February Mr Deetman asked all the abusers to report to his commission, giving them until 4 April to do so.

The result? Some abusers have already come forward. Maybe not as many as hoped, but it’s a start. Mr Deetman:

“I haven’t kept track of the exact figures, and I gave them until 4 April. And this is not the kind of thing that will cause a rush. So I expect more people to report themselves in the second half of this month. We just have to wait. But new abusers have come forward. I’m not saying anything about the numbers.”

Lack of trust
So according to Mr Deetman, there is reason for optimism. But not everyone shares this view. One of them is Ton Leerschool, once a victim of sex abuse in a Catholic institute, now a social worker. He is not happy with the Deetman commission and wants the government to intervene in the investigation. Ton Leerschool:

“Deetman is working for the Catholic Church. We don’t trust the Church because it has already let us down once. [...] The government should look into what happened to these Dutch citizens.”

Parliamentary inquiry
Martin de Witte, the lawyer acting for around 120 victims, agrees. He thinks there should be a parliamentary inquiry. Mr De Witte:

“It would be a good idea, because it’s important that cases like this are dealt with openly and transparently. And especially when an institute like the church is involved, this is important as they don’t like transparency. On the contrary, they make sure dossiers on abuse are destroyed.”

Truth commission
However, for the time being the cabinet is not interested in hard measures such as a parliamentary inquiry. MP Madeleine van Toorenburg of the Christian Democrats says:

“The question is whether parliament could do any better than Deetman. We all have the same interest at heart. This certainly isn’t a political issue. As parliament we would like to join forces in order to make sure we find out who is best suited to do this. And in the end the victims can only determine that when Deetman has finished. Then we should ask them: can you live with this?”

But the opposition party GreenLeft doesn’t want to wait for the outcome of the Deetman commission. In a press release the party has said there should be an independent truth commission for the victims of sex abuse in the Catholic Church.

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