Dr. Arjan Plaisier, secretary of the general synod of the Protestant Church in the Netherlands on the report on sexual abuse of minor in the Catholic Church.
After earlier preliminary reports the committee Deetman published her final report on sexual abuse of minors in the Roman Catholic Church. The result, which is not surprising after previous signals, is utterly shocking. One out of ten adults of 40 years and older has been involved with sexual abuse outside of the family. In institutions the number is one out of five. The committee estimates that between 10.000 and 20.000 minors have become victims of sexual abuse in catholic institutions, children’s homes, boarding schools and orphanages between 1945 and 1981. These are sad figures within a church community wanting to keep up the standard of the Gospel. Because of a cover-up-culture, because of a disintegrated organisation, because of a culture where there was no or hardly any attention for the victim, by of lack of supervision things happened which should never have happened. People have become victims, often lifelong victims.
It is a good thing this independent investigation took place. It is a good thing that it has been taken seriously by the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church. Sense of guilt and recognition of guilt are the first steps here. Secondly, doing everything necessary – independent monitoring, independent justice and aid and so on. Above all: to work on a different atmosphere, other relations and a truly pastoral attitude.
This also regards the other churches. “If any of you have never sinned, then go ahead and throw the first stone” (John 8: 7). In the Protestant Church and her predecessors in title as well sexual abuse has taken place and it was not always handled well. There too are victims who have become deeply disappointed, not only with the concerning office-bearers, but also in the manner the congregation and the church have handled these matters. The Lord of the church often must have wept with the victims of abuse in the church and herewith over the church herself.
Therefore it is correct that the matter of sexual abuse in pastoral relationships is continuously a serious topic of discussion. That there is a ‘Protocol for congregations which are being confronted with (sexual) abuse in pastoral and authority relationships’. And it is also a good thing that the general synod recently occupied herself with this matter, precisely because of the position of the victim within the congregation. The church should genuinely take position with the victims. In Christ’s name we have a standard to keep up. Therefore the congregation should be a safe place for everyone. And abuse will have to be judged severely and justly. Some years ago the general synod already stated: “Sexual abuse is a sin: evil in the eyes of God and injustice toward the fellow-man.”
The figures of the investigation of the Deetman committee clearly show how widely spread sexual abuse has been. Deetman called it a form of violence. The Deetman-report is not giving us a more optimistic concept of man. In all kind of areas injustice against our fellow-man is causing victims. Christians are part of mankind and often are not doing any better. Therefore especially in the church we will have to stay alert for all kinds of injustice and we have every reason to pray: “Lord have mercy on us, because we are no better than the others.” But in that case there is every reason to listen to the voice of the living Lord himself. To live out of love ‘which does not harm our neighbour’ and to engage in the battle against what does actually harm us and others. To be renewed in the image of Christ Himself. And thus to become a true community of brethren and sisters, where the good life is shared and spread.