In 1900, 11-year old Dutch girl Marietje Kessels, after having been raped, was murdered in the Sacred Heart Roman Catholic church in the Noordhoek neighborhood in Tilburg city.
The police investigated a painter working in the church at the time, and the church’s sexton. However, this did not lead to convictions.
They did not investigate other potential suspects: the church’s priest, George van Zinnicq Bergmann, and other clergy.
Dutch NOS TV says (translated):
[Police] research revealed that Marietje had been strangled in a room used for education. There were only two people who had a key to that room, the priest and the sexton.
After medical examination had shown that the painter and the sexton had had no sexual intercourse, that left the parish priest. Van der Pol
curator of the Breda museum
says that potential involvement of the priest was hardly studied. He is said to have been protected by relatives working in the judiciary.
Dutch language Wikipedia says about this (translated):
Tilburg’s notables probably believed that clergy were above all suspicion. Especially in socialist and anticlerical circles there were soon rumors and satirical songs in which the priest was blamed.
The view that the priest was the perpetrator, is also held by the publicist Ed Schilders, in a 1988 book about the murder, entitled Murder Corner – The murder of Marietje Kessels in a Catholic church.
Today, a surviving relative of Marietje confirms what socialist critics of the police suspected already in 1900. It seems the Roman Catholic hierarchy has covered up the truth about this horrible murder and rape for over a century.
Ms Godelieve Kessels is a surviving niece of Marietje.
Today, NOS TV says:
‘Marietje Kessels killed by priest’
Monday, October 3, 2011, 18:10
By home affairs editor Liedeke Morssinkhof
The pastor of the Noordhoek church in Tilburg raped and murdered in 1900 the then 11-year-old Marietje Kessels. This states her niece, the now 71-year-old Godelieve Kessels, in a book which appears this week.
Representatives of the Vatican a few years after the murder confirmed the suspicions of the family, but prohibited the family from doing anything with that knowledge.
In ‘The murder of Marietje Kessels. Why the parents had to keep silent’ Godelieve Kessels tells the story of her father Matthieu, Marietje Kessels’ oldest brother. It’s the first time that a member of the family is talking about this issue.
In Tilburg, she is still world-famous. Manufacturer’s daughter Marietje Kessels, who never came home after dropping off a letter. Two days after her disappearance, she was found in the vault above Noordhoek Church. Naked, raped and murdered. The perpetrator was never caught, but many people in Tilburg were soon convinced that he was the priest Van Zinnicq Bergmann.
The family thinks that as well, according to the book by Godelieve Kessels. Her father, four years old when his sister died, later spoke frequently with his parents over who could have killed Marietje.
Higher-ups in the church hierarchy must have heard about more and more people suspecting the priest. As several years after the murder two delegates from the Vatican came to the Kessels’ family home. They confirmed the suspicions of the family, the priest was the perpetrator. But they asked the family strongly to remain silent. Because, they said, otherwise the whole Catholic Church would be on trial along with the priest. And that surely was not what the family wanted?
According to Godelieve Kessels, only now the time is ripe for revealing this family secret. She says: “I see this in the light of the recent discussions on sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic clergy. More and more cases come to light and more and more is known about the systematic denial and concealment by the church. My father’s story fits well in this horrifying context of church abuse”.
Although hard evidence is still lacking, to church historian Peter Nissen the story of the Kessels family is “historically plausible”. It fills precisely the gaps that there were, 111 years later. Moreover, according to him this shows how the Church has dealt for centuries with issues of sexual abuse.
In an essay in the book he explains that within the Catholic Church since the 17th century, the same rules apply to sexual abuse. One is that they handle such complaints themselves, without involvement of the judiciary. Abuse and ways of handling it are thus older than the recent big number of cases.
Godelieve Kessels, “The murder of Marietje Kessels. Why the parents had to keep silent.” Contact Publishers, ISBN 9789086450374.
See also here.
See also here. According to regional broadcaster Omroep Brabant, Marietje Kessels’ father was afraid that if he would tell the truth about his daughter’s murder, the Roman Catholic Church would ruin his musical instruments’ business. Dutch society in the early twentieth century was very sectarian: Roman Catholics would buy musical instruments etc. from Roman Catholic businesses in good standing; Protestants would buy musical instruments etc. only from fellow Protestants; etc.
Dutch Radio 1 called this “a cover-up, ordered by the pope himself”.
The pope of the cover-up of the murder of Marietje Kessels was Pius X, officially considered a saint by the Roman Catholic church.
Will the Vatican succeed in covering up crimes being perpetrated right now for over a century as well?
Occupy the Vatican? Ms Magazine Blog: here.
USA: Prosecutors go after the church hierarchy by charging Robert Finn of the Kansas City, Mo., diocese with failure to report evidence of child abuse. Might others now follow suit? Here.
- Priest says he’s been shunned, fired for discussing sex abuse (metronews.ca)
- Top priest ‘blames’ kids for sex abuse (mumbaimirror.com)
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