The Dutch Catholic Church, in a rare admission of guilt among senior clergy, has confirmed that a bishop who died last year had sexually abused two boys decades earlier.
The diocese of Roermond said a Church commission had found that accusations against former bishop Johannes Gijsen, dating back to his time as chaplain at a minor seminary from 1958 to 1961, were “well founded”.
The admission came on Friday, the same day that Pope Francis made his first public plea for forgiveness for “all the evil” committed by priests who molested children, and said the Church had to do more to discipline wayward clerics.
Mea Culpa, a Dutch group supporting abuse victims, welcomed the Roermond statement. But it said the accusations had been made while Gijsen was alive, and noted critically that “complaints against living suspects are often declared unfounded”.
Bishop Frans Wiertz, current head of Roermond diocese, said he accepted the commission’s findings and “regrets the abuse and suffering inflicted on the victims”. He has personally met the two men and apologised to them, he said.