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Cardinal Ad Simonis accused of protecting abuser priest
("BBC," February 11, 2011)

Amersfoort, The Netherlands - A senior figure in the Dutch Catholic Church protected a priest who sexually abused children, Dutch media reports say.

Cardinal Ad Simonis is accused of knowing of the allegations made against the priest when he transferred him to another parish, where he abused again.

According to AFP, Mr Simonis said that at the time he believed that the priest - who has not been named - had changed.

He said the priest's renewed abuse in Amersfoort was "lamentable".

The priest was moved from his parish in Zoetermeer to a parish in Amersfoort after the local bishop complained about his abuse, Radio Netherlands says.

Ad Simonis - who served as archbishop from 1983 to 2007 - Radio Netherlands reports, did not tell the new parish of Amersfoort about the allegations against the priest, or monitor his behaviour.

Dutch officials say six of the priest's victims reported incidents to the police from 1987 to 2008, the radio station reports.

Erwin Meester, who says he was abused by the priest, is quoted as telling Radio Netherlands that Cardinal Simonis "wilfully and knowingly gave a paedophile his protection, when he should have been protecting the faithful under his care".

Outrage

According to AFP the cardinal admitted in a statement that he was "aware" of the priest's history. He said the priest had undergone therapy and received "serious, written psychological advice" which he believed was "adequate" ahead of the appointment.

He also added that there had never been any signal from the parish that the priest "had fallen back into child abuse", saying the allegations first came to light on Wednesday.

The cardinal, now retired, caused outrage last year when, commenting on abuse within the Catholic Church in the Netherlands said that they had known nothing of it.

He repeated a phrase in German, rather than Dutch, which is associated with Nazi excuses after World War II.

In March 2010, Dutch bishops ordered an independent inquiry into more than 200 allegations of sexual abuse of children by priests, in addition to three cases dating from 1950 to 1970.

Allegations first centred on Don Rua monastery school in the eastern Netherlands, with people saying they were abused by Catholic priests in the 1960s and 70s.

This prompted dozens more alleged victims from other institutions to come forward.