Many secret settlements on sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church
The Roman Catholic Church has settled a third of all known cases of child sexual abuse by church officials secretly under conditions of confidentiality. That happened against the explicit advice of the Deetman committee, which investigated the sexual abuse within the church.
Research by NRC Handelsblad daily found this out. The newspaper has read internal documents by ecclesiastical authorities.
In total, until the beginning of this year 342 cases have been settled outside the formal complaint procedure and are subject to confidentiality. In all these cases of sexual abuse therefore it remains unclear what exactly happened and what compensation victims have been awarded.
In 210 of these abuse cases the arrangement was made with the aid of a mediator. In the remaining cases it happened directly between the victims and the church. In total, according to NRC Handelsblad in the 342 secret settlements 10.6 million euros was paid in compensation.
In the two Oscars-winning movie Spotlight on the research of journalists from The Boston Globe about sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in Boston, there is a key scene in which this mechanism is explained.
The church’s lawyer who arranged the secret settlements with victims tells the journalists that there is no paper trail of these settlements, because the settlements were established through mediation.
The Deetman committee, which was established by the church itself to investigate the sexual abuse, advocated in its final report to deal with the abuse cases “based on transparency.” A complaint procedure was set up to be carried out by the Foundation for Management & Supervision, established in 2011.
The Foundation has settled until January 1 this year, 703 abuse cases whose nature and scope were published anonymously. In total religious institutions paid 21.3 million for these cases. About two hundred abuse cases have yet to be settled.
In many cases severe forms of sexual abuse were involved. 146 children were raped, sometimes often. The youngest known victim was from four years old on raped by the director, deputy director and two supervisors of the Don Bosco orphanage in Rotterdam of the Company of St John’s Crusaders. That continued from 1959 to 1966.
Most abuse took place at boarding schools and other schools. The oldest rape victim was 26. The rape victims were together paid a sum of eight million euros. The individual compensations were between 12,500 and 100,000 euros.
In the agreements which were presented to the victims arranged by the various ecclesiastical authorities there was in many cases a provision on strict confidentiality. “Parties commit themselves again now and in the future to third parties to not comment negatively on each other as regards the development of this settlement, and the events which caused it.”
So, again victims have to be silent about the abuse, about which already the perpetrators ordered them to be silent when it was committed.
Such formulation was used in contracts in which mediators of Bureau Drieluik were involved: they concluded secret agreements involving the Maastricht Friars of the Immaculate Conception of the Holy Virgin Mary, the Salesians, the friars in Utrecht and Tilburg, the Brothers of the Christian Schools and the Brothers of Charity. Those orders had schools and boarding schools.
Both the victims’ organization KLOKK and the Foundation for Management & Supervision stress to NRC Handelsblad the importance of disclosing the secret settlements now. Those cases could include supporting evidence for proceedings that are ongoing.
There are 250 victims with a believable story, but lack of evidence.
According to NRC Handelsblad, the total cost to the church for the handling of the abuse has increased to nearly 60 million. In this, the legal costs, office costs and potential lost collections revenue are not included.
The Hotline on Sexual Abuse, which falls under the church’s Independent Foundation for Management & Supervision of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands, will in its annual report for 2015 report on the complaints processed and granted compensation, mediation and settlements. The annual report will be ready in the first week of April and will be published on their website.