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Catholic diocese says late bishop guilty of abuse

April 12, 2014

THE HAGUE, Netherlands (AP) — A former Dutch Catholic bishop, who died last year, was guilty of sexual abuse decades ago when he was a chaplain and teacher in the southern Netherlands, his diocese has acknowledged, in the latest abuse scandal to hit the church.

An organization of victims of church abuse, Mea Culpa, welcomed the statement Saturday as vindicating a fight for justice by victims, both boys at the time of the abuse.

The Diocese of Roermond said in a statement issued late Friday that a church complaints commission had ruled that the late Bishop Jo Gijsen was found to have committed the abuse.

The current Roermond bishop, Frans Wiertz, said in a written statement he “accepted the advice of the complaints commission to declare the allegations well-founded.”

He said he “regretted the abuse and the victims’ suffering” and had apologized to them.

Bert Smeets of Mea Culpa called the ruling “a slap in the face for the Dutch Roman Catholic Church.”

The abuse reportedly happened in 1958-9 and in 1961 to two boys, according to the Dutch Katholiek Nieuwsblad newspaper.

The victims have to go to a separate commission to apply for compensation.

The revelation of abuse by such a senior figure is the latest humiliation for the Dutch Catholic Church.

A far-reaching inquiry into abuse in the church published a shocking report in 2011 which said that up to 20,000 children suffered some form of abuse at Catholic institutions from 1945.

The findings prompted then-Archbishop of Utrecht Wim Eijk to apologize to victims on behalf of the Dutch church, saying the report “fills us with shame and sorrow.”

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