Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Breaking News: Dutch Catholic Institutions in 1950s Castrated Teens Reporting Clerical Sexual Abuse

As a number of readers* noted yesterday, the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad is now reporting that at least 10 teenaged boys or young men were castrated in Catholic facilities in the 1950s to "get rid of homosexuality."  Bruno Waterfield summarizes the story today in the Irish paper Independent.

As Waterfield reports, one of those castrated was Henk Heithuis, who was castrated in 1956 while a minor and after having reported to the police priests who had sexually molested him at a Catholic boarding home.  Two clergymen were convicted of abuse following his reports, but he was then transferred by police to a Catholic psychiatric hospital.  


There, court papers confirm, he was castrated "at his own request", despite no submission of his written consent. Sources told Mr Dohmen that the surgical removal of testicles was regarded as a treatment for homosexuality and also as a punishment for those who accused clergy of sexual abuse.

The Mr. Dohmen of the preceding paragraph is Joep Dohmen, a journalist who uncovered evidence of Heithuis's castration, and who has found evidence of at least nine similar castrations of teenaged boys or young men in Dutch Catholic institutions in the same period.

Waterfield notes that there is evidence that government inspectors were apprised of the practice of Catholic institutions of castrating boys or young men reporting sexual abuse by priests, and there is also documentation that officials at the Catholic institutions engaging in these practices did not think parents needed to be notified.  Dutch MPs will call today for an official investigation of what happened in these institutions in the 1950s.

As Andrew Sullivan asks, what other phrase can one use to describe this shocking story except "Catholic evil"?  And as Barbara Blaine of SNAP writes, while this report hits the media, and while the story from last fall about trafficking of babies in Spanish hospitals by nuns, priests, and doctors is back in the news with the formal charging of an 80-year old nun, Sister María Gómez, Pope Benedict has just set up an investigation.

But not an investigation of the castration incidents or the baby-trafficking: an investigation of Vatican leaks that are airing the dirty laundry of the inner governing structures of the Catholic church.  Blaine writes, 

Again, the church hierarchy shows its true, and tragic, priorities. The priests and nuns who abuse and torture children are rarely pursued and punished. Instead, those who allegedly leak details of the Vatican’s mishandling of child sex cases are.

And Barbara Blaine is absolutely correct.

*Particular thanks to Guestbloggy and Fr. Joseph O'Leary, and to Jayden Cameron and John Bijarney, who responded to the story in the comments section yesterday--and I hope I am leaving no one out!

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