The Catholic Church in the Netherlands decided on Tuesday to set up an independent inquiry commission to probe allegations of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests, according to Dutch Catholic bishops.
The Dutch Catholic Church also offered its apologies to the victims in a statement released Tuesday, and formally requested former education minister Wim Deetman to head the "broad, external and independent" investigation into the sex-abuse complaints.
"The number of reports of abuse in former Catholic educational establishments requires further investigation," the statement said. "To the victims of abuse in Catholic boarding schools, the religious leaders and bishops offer their deep-felt condolences and apologies."
The move came after Dutch Bishops' Conference and the Dutch Religious Conference (KNR) met in the central city of Utrecht to discuss abuse claims made by some 200 alleged victims.
After the meeting, the Church described the sex-abuse claims as "painful," and said that the independent investigation into the allegations would be launched "as soon as possible."
The meeting came after the Dutch Catholic Church announced last week that it will launch an independent investigation into alleged sexual abuse of students at a monastery school in the eastern Netherlands.
In addition to the Dutch Catholic Church, the Catholic Churches in Germany, Austria, Ireland and the United States have been damaged by sexual abuse scandals in recent weeks, prompting many of them to launch independent probes in sex-abuse claims.
Hours earlier, it emerged that the Church authorities in Austria have accepted a resignation tendered by Bruno Becker, the head of a Salzburg monastery, after he admitted to sexually abusing a 12-year-old boy more than 40 years ago when he was a monk.
Separately, the Vatican said in a statement issued Tuesday that the Church authorities in Germany, the Netherlands, Austria and other countries had acted "decisively" by launching independent investigations into allegations of sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests.
"They have demonstrated their desire for transparency and, in a certain sense, accelerated the emergence of the problem by inviting victims to speak out, even when the cases involved date from many years ago," Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said in the statement.
"By doing so, they have approached the matter 'on the right foot,' because the correct starting point is recognition of what happened and concern for the victims and the consequences of the acts committed against them," he added.
Father Lombardi also described the sexual abuse scandals as deplorable, but added that all "objective and informed people know that the issue is much wider, and to focus accusations only on the Church leads to a skewed perspective."
by RTT Staff Writer
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