THE HAGUE, Netherlands — Thousands of children suffered sexual abuse in Dutch Catholic institutions, and church officials failed to adequately address the abuse or help the victims, according to a long-awaited investigation released Friday.
The report by the an independent commission said Catholic officials failed to tackle the widespread abuse "to prevent scandals." The suspected number of abuse victims who spent some of their youth in church institutions likely lies somewhere between 10,000 and 20,000, according to a summary of the report.
Based on a survey among more than 34,000 people, the commission estimated that one in 10 Dutch children suffered some form of abuse. The number doubled to 20 percent of children who spent part of their youth in an institution — whether Catholic or not.
The commission said it received some 1,800 complaints of abuse at Catholic schools, seminaries and orphanages and that the institutions suffered from "a failure of oversight." It then conducted the broader survey of the general population for a more comprehensive analysis of the scale and nature of sexual abuse of minors.
The commission was set up last year under the leadership of former government minister Wim Deetman to investigate allegations of abuse dating from 1945.
Deetman said that the problem of abuse continued in part because the Catholic church organization in the Netherlands was splintered, so bishops and religious orders sometimes worked autonomously to deal with abuse and "did not hang out their dirty laundry."
However, he said that the commission concluded that "it is wrong to talk of a culture of silence" by the church as a whole.
The Dutch Bishops Conference scheduled a press conference for Friday afternoon to respond to the report.
The investigation followed allegations of repeated incidents of abuse at one cloister that quickly spread to claims from Catholic institutions across the country, echoing similar scandals around the world.
The commission identified about 800 priests, brothers, pastors or lay people working for the church who had been named in the complaints. About 105 of them were still alive, although it was not known if they remained in church positions, the report said. It identified them as "perpetrators" rather than "offenders," meaning they had not been proven to have committed a crime.
The Dutch branch of the Catholic church agreed last month to launch a compensation system that clears the way for victims of abuse by priests and other church workers to receive payments.
The new compensation system has a scale starting at euro5,000 ($6,500) and rising to a maximum of euro100,000 ($130,000) depending on the nature of the abuse.
According to the Dutch Central Bureau for Statistics, 29 percent of the Dutch population of 16 million identified themselves as Catholics in 2008, making it the largest religion in the country.
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