More details emerge on Dutch Catholic Church child rape and castration scandal

Via the Daily Beast, journalist Robert Chesal describes how this story developed.  It’s hard to express how vomit-inducing this sordid tale is.  I find it difficult to believe than anyone on this planet can still look to the Catholic Church as a source of moral authority.

The article provides the following details of the sad story of Henk Heithuis, which were preserved in letters by Dutch sculptor, Cornelius Rogge, who met Heithuis after he had fallen ill as a result of his castration at the hands of doctors in a Roman Catholic institution, and at the instruction of Catholic authorities:

Rogge…had met Henk Heithuis when the young man arrived, extremely ill, at his mother Thea’s home in Amsterdam in 1957. He’d never forgotten the stories Henk told of sexual abuse he suffered in the care facilities where he grew up. Especially the story about abuse by a monk named Gregorius, the brother superior at Harreveld, the Roman Catholic boarding school where Henk lived from 1950 to 1953.

Henk said the monks there preyed on the boys,” Rogge told Dohmen. “When he was seventeen he became the brother superior’s plaything. Henk compared the place to a bordello. We could hardly believe our ears.”

In 1956, Henk, then 20-years-old and legally a minor, reported the clerical abuse to the police. Hearing about the abuse, the police treated him as if he were insane, bringing him to a Roman Catholic psychiatric hospital where he was involuntarily committed. People there told detectives Henk was “a homosexual, untrustworthy, a liar and mentally disturbed.”

One month later, at St. Josephs hospital in the southern Dutch town of Veghel, Henk was surgically castrated or “eugenized,” as the hospital records put it, using a term previously attributed to the Nazi program of systematically sterilizing the mentally and physically handicapped.

In one of his letters, Henk wrote about how he was “maimed.” The surgeon, he told Rogge, played records to calm the other boys who were in the hallway, waiting to undergo the same procedure.

“I didn’t believe him,” Rogge said. But when Henk took off his pants to show him, he was shocked to see the truth. “When he undressed I saw that, indeed, there was nothing left there where his testicles used be. It blew us away to see that this was not a joke. He was mutilated.”

And, as was typical for the Catholic Church in responding to allegations of child rape, they disappeared the perpetrator, likely foisting him off on another unsuspecting parish.

A few weeks after Henk reported brother superior Gregorius to the police, Gregorius was spirited out of Harreveld boarding school. Records in the Dutch state attorney’s office reveal that he was never prosecuted, for “lack of evidence.” His congregation quickly moved him to New Glasgow, in Nova Scotia, where he helped set up a home for the mentally handicapped and worked for many years, according to a Dutch newspaper.

Gregorious, whose given name was Gregory van Buuren, died in 1993 of natural causes, at the retirement home of his congregation in the Netherlands.

As for Henk himself?  He suffered immensely, due to hormonal imbalances caused by the castration.  He did not die quietly, cared for by the church that had brought so much unforgivable harm on him.  He died in a car accident in 1958, and by the time Rogge got to Henk’s apartment, the police had already cleared out all of his personal effects, including all his documentation of the castration.

What makes this story even worse, if such a thing is possible, is that all of this information was there and available to the commission that the Catholic Church had authorized to investigate allegations of sexual abuse in the Netherlands.  But, while the commission did report that there may be as many as ten times the 1000 complaints received, the commission reported not a word of the castrations that were carried out on innocent boys.



2 responses to “More details emerge on Dutch Catholic Church child rape and castration scandal

  • Patrick Ryan

    It may be a point of clarification: Brother Gregory worked with my father Francis Raymond Ryan as did a brother Lawrence from the same religious order to set-up a vocational training institute in New Glasgow, Nova Scotia. This was located at the old hospital after the opening of a new one in 1955.
    I believe as a child I sat on Brother Gregory’s knee more than once.

    The irony is that I would later be sexually abused by a priest, Fr. Claude Richard. I successfully became a part of a class action suit against the Diocese of Antigonish.

    Boy there were plenty of devils in Catholic Religious organizations who preyed on boys. Yet the Vatican does not get directly involved in compensation. I believe it was the Vatican that helped ensure these guys were moved around….complicit with the devil!

    • equivalenceprinciple

      You’re right, of course. I read another article describing where Brother Gregory had been moved, and neglected to update.

      I am so sorry to hear that you were one of the many children abused by a priest. It is very literally mind-boggling to think about the number of children whose lives were twisted beyond recognition by the epidemic of priest sexual abuse. I am happy to hear that your class action was successful, and I wish you all the best.

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