900 abuse cases in Dutch clergy

News 24, South Africa/August 25, 2010

The Hague - A Dutch commission set up five months ago to look into suspected sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy in the Netherlands said on Wednesday it has received about 900 reports from alleged victims.

"The 900 reports come mainly from victims but also from relatives of the victims who contacted us," Gert Jan Verhoog, a spokesperson for the commission told AFP.

The commission has been preparing for the investigation, which officially opened on Tuesday, since mid-March, when it started receiving the reports of alleged abuse.

Some members of the clergy accused of abuse gave themselves up to the commission, Verhoog said.

The Dutch Religious Conference and the Dutch Bishops' Conference set up the commission on March 9, ordering a "broad, external and independent" investigation following dozens of alleged abuse cases dating from the 1960s and 1970s.

Verhoog said the commission had received reports dating from 1945 to the present.

The former Dutch minister of education, Wim Deetman, who heads the commission, had said earlier that the formal investigation would probably take a year.

At the same time, a Catholic Church committee called Hulp & Recht (Support and Right), tasked with collecting reports from alleged victims, has so far received about 1 600 statements, spokesperson Ben Spekman told AFP.

The Roman Catholic Church has been rocked by scandals over paedophile priests across Europe, mainly in Austria, Belgium, Ireland and Germany, as well as the US.

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