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Dutch Catholic Institutions Abused Thousands, Inquiry Finds

A Dutch investigation of sexual abuse by staff at Roman Catholic schools, seminaries and children’s homes estimated that 10,000 to 20,000 minors fell victim between 1945 and 1981.

“The idea that it wasn’t known can’t be maintained,” Wim Deetman, a former mayor of The Hague who led the investigation, told reporters in the city. The Catholic Church knew about the abuse and failed to take adequate action, according to the report published today.

The independent investigators, commissioned by the Dutch bishops, received 1,795 complaints of sexual abuse and identified about 800 suspects who worked in dioceses, orders and congregations, of whom 105 are still alive.

Four people filed charges and 30 reported abuse in the institutions. While most cases couldn’t be prosecuted because time had lapsed, one sexton was sentenced to 15 months, of which 12 months was conditional, the prosecutor said in a statement.

“Help alone is not enough to provide redress for victims,” the commission wrote. “Financial compensation is an essential element of the reparation that must be made to the victims.” The Dutch bishops last month agreed to pay as much as 100,000 euros ($130,000) per person in compensation to the victims.

The Netherlands in 1947 was home to 3.7 million Catholics, or 38 percent of the population, according to a census. The risk of abuse for children in Catholic and non-Catholic institutions was twice the national average, the commission found.

“We deeply regret this abuse,” the Dutch bishops said in a statement today. “We empathize with the victims and offer them our heartfelt apology.”

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