Several years ago I was conducting an interview with a reporter with a major daily newspaper who had covered the Catholic clergy abuse scandals regularly. In the course of the discussion, the reporter asked me what I thought should be done with my perpetrator, Father James T. Hanley, an admitted child molester with dozens of known victims who could no longer be prosecuted for his crimes.
”Chemical castration,” was my response. The reporter was aghast at my suggestion and encouraged me to retract my quote. “You’re better than that,” he said. I noted that it was the only way to ensure that children would be safe from an admitted, compulsive child molester.
A couple of years later when notifying an urban community that my perpetrator was their new neighbor, we discovered a family with three young boys who had just unwittingly hosted the child-molester at their home for dinner. He came bearing balloons for the boys, as he had obviously chosen them to be his next victims.
Clearly, chemical castration would have been too good for him.
This anecdote brings an ironic twist to the news that despite an official investigation last year into hundreds of cases of sexual abuse enabled by Catholic bishops in The Netherlands over 50 years, ten cases of castration of clergy abuse victims went undiscovered – until, that is, a new report by investigative journalist Joep Dohmen was just released (see: Dutch Roman Catholic Church 'castrated at least 10 boys').
Yes, the youthful victims of Dutch priests were blamed for the abuse as well as for their “homosexuality” and were punished by having their testicles removed.
The one victim named in the report, Henk Heithuis, was castrated as a minor in 1956 after he filed a report with the local police about the sexual abuse that he suffered at the hands of two priests in a boarding home. Despite the fact that his perpetrators from the priesthood were convicted, Heithuis was moved from a psychiatric hospital to another medical facility which conducted the castration as a punishment for reporting the sexual abuse by clergy. He died in a car accident two years later.
While this grisly case may be hard to grasp, it is not impossible to comprehend. Church leaders enable the abuse of children because they are not accountable under civil law, nor under church law, and they can attack without consequence the accusers who seek justice. The structure of the church keeps powerful men in positions even when they have silenced, attacked, and, in the case of The Netherlands, mutilated credible victims of clergy sexual abuse.
The newspaper I reference above just ran an editorial about ongoing attacks by American Catholic bishops against abuse victims, titled Catholic Church now trying to silence victims' support group, which includes this excerpt:
Ten years after Catholic bishops swore to clean up their act after decades of sexual abuse by priests and cover-ups by their leaders, the Catholic Church is proving that old habits die hard.
For decades, the Catholic hierarchy…used intimidation and secrecy to hide accusations that priests molested children. Now, it’s using the same tactics to silence a group that gives aid and comfort to the priests’ victims.
Ten years after the great church scandals erupted in the United States, bishops, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York, have turned to their old playbook and are unabashedly attacking victims.
So do not be aghast at the news that accusers were castrated for having the courage to come forward and seek justice. Unfortunately, not much has changed in this church hierarchy since then. Instead, when you consider the devastation caused by such recklessness which continues to this day, you might pause and wonder, who really deserves castration?
What is most clear is that even after his castration, Henk Heithuis, who had the courage to seek justice even back in the 1950s, was more of a man than any one of the legions of Catholic bishops who hide child molesters in the church and then attack their victims.