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‘Dutch church castrated sex abuse victims’

A young man was surgically castrated decades ago after complaining about sexual abuse.

Written by New York Times | Brussels | Published: March 22, 2012 12:33 am

A young man in the care of the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands was surgically castrated decades ago after complaining about sexual abuse,according to new evidence that only adds to the scandal engulfing the church there.

The case,which dates from the 1950s comes amid suspicions that as many as 10 young men may have suffered the same fate.

“This case is especially painful because it concerns a victim who was victimised for a second time,” said Peter Nissen,a professor of the history of religion at Radboud University in the Netherlands.

It is unclear,however,whether the reported castration was performed as a punishment for whistle-blowing or what was seen as a treatment for homosexuality.

In 2010,about 2,000 people complained of abuse by priests,church institutions or religious orders in the Netherlands after the Roman Catholic Church commissioned an inquiry. It finally concluded the number of victims could be 10 times higher.

That committee,led by Wim Deetman,a former education minister,was presented with evidence of the castration case when it was contacted by a friend of the young man,who was castrated in 1956,two years before his death in a road accident.

The victim,Henk Heithuis,lived in Catholic institutions from infancy after being taken into care. When he complained about sexual abuse to the police,Heithuis,20 then,was transferred to a Catholic psychiatric hospital before being admitted to the St. Joseph Hospital in Veghel,where he was castrated.

Cornelius Rogge,a friend of Heithuis,informed the Deetman Commission,contacting an investigative journalist,Joep Dohmen,when there was no clear follow-up. “He was strapped to a bed,” Rogge said. “In one stroke,his scrotum was cut out. Then he was taken to an infirmary to rest and recover. Then the other boys received the same treatment. He could hear them screaming.”

Dohmen,the investigative journalist who broke the news in the daily NRC Handelsblad,said that correspondence from the 1950s and Heithuis’s testimony to Rogge suggested that there could have been nine other cases. Dohmen said he uncovered another case. A gay man,not abused,was also castrated.

Dohmen said the man accused of abusing Heithuis was probed but not prosecuted. He was transferred to Nova Scotia,where he started a home for boys.

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