FaithWorld

Dutch prosecutors admit were wrong to drop Catholic abuse cases

maastrichtDutch public prosecutors wrongly dropped two clear cases of sexual abuse of minors by two Roman Catholic priests in the 1980s but it was not a cover-up, a spokeswoman for the prosecutors office said on Wednesday.

A new book published earlier in the day reported that both priests had confessed and numerous witnesses had testified for the defence, but prosecutors closed their inquiries after contacts with the Catholic hierarchy.

The book Vrome zondaars (“Pious Sinners”) by journalist Joep Dohmen also accused prosecutors of turning away victims trying to report abuse and working to deflect any discredit from the Church. (Photo: Basilica of Our Lady in Maastricht, 2 March 2005/Beckstet)

“In the two cases from 1980 and 1985 mentioned in the book, there seems to have been a provable case which was dismissed under certain conditions,” the spokeswoman said in a statement. “It must be said that these were not correct decisions.”

Dohmen’s NRC Handelsblad newspaper, which published excerpts from the book, quoted a lawyer for abuse victims as saying there was a “cover-up culture” among prosecutors decades ago.  “The prosecutors tried above all to keep good relations with the Church,” lawyer Richard Korver said. “Many justice officers were loyal Catholics. That applied to judges as well.”

“Burqa bans”: First France, then the Netherlands – who’s next?

veil 1First the French banned Muslim face veils, now the Dutch have decided to follow suit. With debates about outlawing burqas and niqabs spreading across Europe, a third ban — perhaps even more — may not be far behind. (Photo: A Muslim woman protests against France’s banning of full face veils outside the French Embassy in London September 25, 2010/Luke MacGregor)

Only a small minority of Muslim women in Europe cover their faces, but their veils have become ominous symbols for Europeans troubled by problems such as the economic crisis, immigration and Muslim integration.

With Europe’s political mood moving to the right, low-cost, high-symbolism measures such as veil bans have become a rallying cry for far-right parties knocking at the door of power. Their appeal also resonates with those worried by possible security threats from masked people or offended by the blow to gender equality they see when a covered woman walks by.

Dutch government pact sealed with ban on “burqas” to win Wilders support

veil (Photo: A Muslim woman protests against France’s ban on full face veils outside the French Embassy in London September 25, 2010/Luke MacGregor)

Two centre-right parties agreed on Thursday to ban full face veils in the Netherlands as the price for parliamentary support from the anti-Islam Freedom party for their planned minority government.

The Netherlands would become the second European Union country to ban Muslim veils — known collectively as burqas in many European countries — after France, in what many see as a shift to the right which has dented the bloc’s reputation for tolerance and may increase security risks.

The draft agreement tightens the rules on immigration and boosts the number of police officers in a concession to far-right Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders, who is on trial for inciting hatred against Muslims.

Dutch agree coalition with support from anti-Islam party of Geert Wilders

wildersTwo Dutch parties have agreed to form a minority government coalition, with support from a far-right party whose leader Geert Wilders is on trial for inciting hatred against Muslims. (Photo: Geert Wilders at a demonstration against the proposed Islamic cultural centre and mosque in New York , September 11, 2010/Chip East)

The parliamentary leaders of the VVD Liberal Party and CDA Christian Democrats reached agreement on Tuesday to form the minority government, the first in the Netherlands since 1939, with support in parliament from the anti-Islam PVV Freedom Party. Read the full story here.

The VVD and the CDA plan to govern with support in parliament from the PVV, which has called Islam a backwards religion and said the ‘islamisation’ of the Netherlands needs to be stopped. Christian Democrat unease over support by an anti-Islam party is casting a shadow over the deal.

Strong support to outlaw face veils as France prepares to vote ban

France’s plan to ban full face veils, which comes up for a vote in the National Assembly on Tuesday, enjoys 82% popular support in the country, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitudes Project. Its neighbours also approve — 71% of those polled in Germany, 62% in Britain and 59% in Spain agreed that there should be laws prohibiting the Muslim veils known as niqabs and burqas in public. burqa 1(Photo: French woman fined for wearing a niqab while driving outside court in Nantes June 28, 2010/Stephane Mahe)

The poll, conducted from April 7 to May 8, did not range further afield, but reports from other countries show support there as well. The lower house of the Belgian parliament has voted for a ban, which should be approved by the Senate after the summer. In the Netherlands, several bills to ban full veils in certain sectors such as schools and public service are in preparation. Switzerland’s justice minister has suggested the cantons there should pass partial bans but make exceptions for visiting Muslim tourists (the wives of rich sheikhs visiting their bankers in Zurich or Geneva?)

The big exception in the Pew poll is the United States, where 65% of those polled disapprove of a ban and only 28% support the idea. The poll did not investigate the reasons for this difference, so we can only assume it has to do with the more widespread acceptance of religion in public life in the U.S. and a more open approach to immigration.

Dutch Catholic abuse probe calls offenders to come forward

Wim Deetman

Wim Deetman

The head of a commission asked by the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands to look into allegations of sexual abuse of minors by priests said on Friday a year-long investigation was needed and appealed for offenders to come forward.

“From a moral, religious point of view, in the framework of the Roman Catholic Church, it is wise to come to the forefront and say what you have done,” said Wim Deetman, who was asked by the Church in March to lead a preliminary inquiry in response to an increasing number of victims coming forward.

“It will be helpful for the commission to establish how broad it has been, not to hear just from the victims but also from the offenders,” he added. The number of calls to a Dutch hotline for victims of abuse has risen to 1,500 since early March, and 52 formal complaints about abuse have been made.

French foreign minister gets ready for criticism over planned burqa ban


(French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner on Europe 1 radio, 2 May 2010/Dailymotion)

France hasn’t even presented its draft bill to outlaw Muslim face veils yet — in contrast to Belgium, which has started voting on its ban — but Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner is already preparing for the wave of criticism from abroad it will provoke. He told Europe 1 radio on Sunday that he’d already warned the government at a cabinet meeting about what to expect.

“The United States are very attached to religious liberty and there will be lots of NGOs and American foundations that will want to point out our mistake,” he said (in the video above in French). “I think they’ll also be convinced that we are for religious liberty but there is no religious recommendation to veil one’s face.

Focus turns to pope as German, Dutch sex abuse scandals unfold

benedict host

Pope Benedict XVI in the Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican, 2 Feb 2010/Max Rossi

The more the scandal of Catholic priests sexually abusing boys in Germany spreads, the more the focus turns to Rome to see how Pope Benedict reacts. The story is getting ever closer to the German-born pope, even though he has been quite outspoken denouncing these scandals and had just met all Irish bishops to discuss the scandals shaking their country. Nobody’s saying he had any role in the abuse cases now coming to light in Germany. But the fact that some took place in Regensburg while he was a prominent theologian there, that his brother Georg has admitted to smacking lazy members of his choir there and that Benedict was archbishop in Munich from 1977 to 1982 lead to the classic cover-up question: what did he know and when did he know it?

This is only the start of what can be a long, drawn out and possibly damaging story for Benedict’s PR-deficient papacy. His crises to date have been linked to his statements or decisions, such as the controversial Regensburg speech that offended Muslims or several run-ins with Jews over restoring old prayers they consider anti-Semitic or rehabilitating an ultra-traditionalist priest who is also a Holocaust denier. But now it’s about what he did or didn’t do in the past and how he moves to avoid further scandals in the future.

Dutch concerns over Islam, globalisation drive Wilders’ support

wilders

Geert Wilders,5 March 2010/Suzanne Plunkett

After scoring gains in local elections, Dutch anti-immigration politician Geert Wilders is now primed to make waves in a national poll in June by tapping into discontent over Islam and globalisation.

In the first test of public opinion since the collapse of Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende’s coalition government last month, Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) became the largest party in the city of Almere and came second in The Hague on Wednesday.

Drawing strength from a savvy public relations machine and a populist anti-immigration stance that plays well with part of the electorate, Wilders also represents a vote against the political elite, political experts say.  “He thrives on discontent in society and multiculturalism and he has targeted Islam,” said Nico Landman, an associate professor in Islamic studies at Utrecht University.

Irish abuse crisis aftershocks hit German, Dutch Catholic churches

bavarian vatican

Bavarian flag at St. Peter's Basilica after Pope Benedict's election, 23 April 2005/Tom Heneghan

It’s like falling dominoes. The scandal of Roman Catholic priests sexually abusing children in Ireland, which came to light last year when two government inquiries cracked the wall of clerical silence there, seems to have inspired victims in other European countries to come forward with their repressed stories. It started in Germany last month with revelations about abuse cases in several elite Jesuit boarding schools. That sparked further reports from other parts of Germany, where reports of hundreds of cases are now coming out. In the neighbouring Netherlands, reports of abuse have also begun surfacing in recent days. On top of all that, an unrelated scandal about a gay prostitution ring has now hit the Vatican.

Since Pope Benedict summoned all Irish bishops to Rome and promised the Irish people a pastoral letter about the abuse cases, what will he do with all these cases now coming out in his homeland? Especially since, as explained below, he seems to have been quite close to some of them.