Friday, May 11, 2012

First abused, then castrated- article and television programme

20 Minuten Online - Erst missbraucht, dann kastriert - History

Henk Heithuis was abused for years by priests. When he resisted, he was castrated. Over fifty years later, the past catches up with the Catholic Church in the Netherlands.

The children of the Heithuis family in 1939 with Henk (2nd from left)

Hardly anyone knew Henk Heithuis when he was killed in a car accident on 28 October 1958 when only 23 years old. Today, fifty years after his untimely death, the sad fate of the Dutchman is extensively covered in the international press – from the "Spiegel" to the FAZ to the "Telegraph".

The media interest has a reason: The name of the young man at the centre of a scandal brings shame on the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands and also reaction in politics. This is because Heithuis, who spent nearly his entire life in Catholic homes and boarding schools, was there not only sexually abused but the church prompted his castration, supposedly to cure his homosexuality.

From the confessional to the surgeon

Worse still, the unfortunate Heithuis was perhaps just one of several victims who were castrated. This is the suspicion at least of the journalist Joep Dohmen who in mid-March with an article in the Dutch newspaper "NRC Handelsblad" started public interest. Dohmen found evidence of a total of ten cases, but without official documentation. There have probably have been many more such cases, Dohmen told the station "Omroep Brabant ' , but it is very doubtful whether these victims would come forward now – as they would be all old men.

That what emerges here is just the tip of the iceberg is indicated by the statements of two surgeons who were interviewed by the Professor of Medical History, Mart van Lieburg. Van Lieburg said in April before the Second Chamber of Parliament that the surgeons were urged in the 50s and 60s by a Catholic bishop to castrate gay youth and men (Cathcon- he modified his initial statement that the Bishop was effectively giving orders for this to be done. Suggesting it is bad enough.). In addition homosexual priests have sent young people to speak directly to the surgeon from the confessional.

Dubious gaps in the final report

The political sensitivity of the Heithuis case is also shown by the bad light is shines on the Deetman Commission which had investigated, on behalf of the Catholic Church, tens of thousands of abuse cases from 1945 to 2010. Although the Commission was notified in writing of the Heithuis case, it was not mentioned in the final report of December 2011. Nor does the final report of the Deetman Commission shed light on the dubious role of Victor Marijnen. The politician of the former Catholic People's Party (KVP) and later prime minister sat until 1959 on the Board of the boarding school (in fact Chairman) where Heithuis and dozens of other students were abused. According to the journalist Dohmen Marijnen in 1958 urged the pardoning of monks who had been convicted of abuse.

Heithuis shortly before his death

The inhuman treatment of the pupil Heithuis would probably never come to light publicly if it had not been for Cornelius and Ijsbrand Rogge. The now 79 and 82 year old brothers got to know Heithuis in 1957. The young man who was both physically and psychologically damaged by his castration told them his harrowing life story: how he was raised as a foster child in Catholic homes. He had been abused in the Harreveld Home from 1951-1954 again and again. When he finally rebelled in early 1956 and brought an action against the priests - the victim was made a perpetrator and he was sent to the Roman Catholic-run psychiatric facility, Padua House. And then he was castrated at St. Joseph Hospital in Veghel. Heithuis at that time was only 20 years old and according to applicable law at that time still a minor.

"There was nothing left down there"

The Rogge brothers saw exactly how the young man had been "treated" when he once showed them the remainder of his genitals. "He let down his pants, and there really was nothing left down there," Cornelius Rogge told the TV programme "Nieuwsuur" . Heithuis in 1957 sued the psychiatric facility because of the Padua House castration. The lawsuit was still pending when he died a year later in a car accident. After his death the Rogge brothers spent decades trying to make the story public - but no one wanted to believe them. It was only Joep Dohmen who has published several articles about abuse in the Catholic Church who began to investigate seriously.

Henk Heithuis did not escape the grip of the Catholic Church even after his death: He was buried with a Catholic ceremony - against his express wishes.

Short television report- English sub-titles

Cathcon has managed to locate a picture of the Prior Gregorius who ran Harreveld. The establishment was first Franciscan but it had taken over by the Society of Saint Vincent de Paul who were running it at the time. It was taken over by the Frentrop Foundation in 1970 and now run as a closed unit on modern principles.
"The Foundation Frentrop Widdonck provides a versatile form of youth services: consultation, intensive outpatient care, foster care and residential care. It provides the specialist residential care for girls and boys with severe handling problems and behavioral disorders, while the Therapeutic Family Care (TGV) provides specialized foster care to children in foster homes."

Prior Gregorius departed for Canada two days after the allegations were made. Also in the picture are Marijnen and the then Inter-Nuntius Giobbe who was visiting the school. Giobbe later became Cardinal- one wonders how much he knew.

Padua House was run by Belgian Sisters of Mercy of Ronse from 1870-1986. The mother house also ran the hospital in Ronse but that they seem to have faded away in the aftermath of the Second Vatican Council.

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