Speaking in German, a Dutch cardinal told a tv audience “Wir haben es nicht gewusst” (we knew nothing) about the sexual abuse of children and young people by Dutch clergy, now (finally) coming to light. The allusion to the post-war German claim — the excuse — was obvious, and apparently intended, though the  New York Times story is not entirely clear about this. If so, it was an important admission of guilt, and of a particularly embarrassing and humiliating kind of guilt — a kind of laziness or worse, moral sloth, a refusal to choose the good and therefore a choice to let the innocent suffer.

In any case, as the newspaper reports:

Figures released Thursday by an investigative commission showed that almost 2,000 people have made complaints of sexual or physical abuse against the church, in a country with only 4 million Catholics.

“The Roman Catholic church has not faced a crisis like this since the French Revolution,” said Peter Nissen, professor of the history of religion at Radboud University, of the growing abuse scandal.

With one legal case starting this week, and accusations against two former bishops, the reaction of the church appears to have fueled the crisis. Nearly all of the cases are decades old, with probably no more than 10 from the last 20 years.


It is rare for a major news story to include that last qualification, many of them having been written as if the charges were all already proven and all contemporary. That is something, both that the recent cases are so few and that the New York Times recognizes that.

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