AMSTERDAM (Reuters) - An order of Dutch Catholic priests admitted on Friday to paying hush money to a victim of sexual abuse but the Dutch Catholic Church denied one of its bishops was involved in the case.
The NRC Handelsblad daily and Radio Netherlands Worldwide reported on Friday they had documents showing the victim was paid 16,000 euros (13,500 pounds) in 2003 to keep the case quiet.
The report said that the unidentified victim, now 76, was abused by seven priests — including the late Bishop Johannes ter Schure — between 1948 to 1953.
Cornelis Oosterwijk, lawyer for the Salesian order of priests, accused the victim of breaking his silence deal with unproven allegations in order to obtain more money.
“A settlement was agreed on condition he would not make the matter public,” he told Reuters. “Now he is seeking 100,000 euros and the order has said it now wants to look at the facts.”
The Dutch Church faces a string of complaints after 900 victims came forward this year to report abuse by priests. A special commission will report on the scandals next month.
The Dutch bishops conference denied its chairman, Rotterdam Bishop Adrianus Van Luyn, had ignored the victim’s 2008 request that his case be made public.
“The victim wrote to Van Luyn in January and April of 2008 and the bishop’s staff replied in July,” spokesman Pieter Kohnen said, adding the bishop had referred him to the Salesian order.
In a new book published this week, Pope Benedict said the wave of recent revelations of sexual abuse by priests in Europe was “an unprecedented shock” for him and “a tremendous cloud of filth” soiling the Church and its priests.
Five bishops in Ireland, one in Germany and one in Belgium have stepped down because they mismanaged abuse cases.
No Dutch bishops have quit over the latest abuse cases. Van Luyn has admitted he dealt with abuse cases while head of the Dutch Salesian province in 1975-1981 but did not publicise them.
Oosterwijk said ter Schure, who was ordained a priest in 1951, was in Rome during the period when the abuse occurred and did not work at the boarding school in question when he returned to the Netherlands the following year.
In May, Dutch Catholic Church authorities gave the go-ahead for an independent one-year investigation into allegations of sexual abuse by priests and promised it their full cooperation.
The investigators, headed by former education minister and Rotterdam mayor Wim Deetman, will look into allegations of abuse over the past 65 years and try to establish who is accountable.
Editing by Tom Heneghan and Maria Golovnina