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Dutch Catholic Church accused of covering up child abuse

Dozens of high-ranking members of the Dutch Catholic Church reportedly knew of sexual abuse and actively covered it up.

High-ranking members of the Dutch Catholic Church have been accused of taking part or actively covering up child abuse between 1945 and 2010.

More than half of Dutch bishops, cardinals and auxiliary bishops knew about the abuse allegations, an investigation by Dutch newspaper NRC showed.

Four of them were accused of having sexually abused children.

According to the report, high-ranking clergy moved priests who had been accused of abuse to other parishes where they could start anew. 

Sometimes, clergy members were moved more than once to cover up their abuse. 

READ MORE: Catholic Church covered up child abuse by 300 US priests: report

They also kept quiet about allegations and destroyed the files of accused members of the clergy.

According to organisations dealing with victims of abuse, these practices led to many more victims over the years.

The Netherlands is not the only country where abuse scandals have rocked the Catholic Church.

In recent years, institutionalised cover-ups of child abuse have popped up in the United States, Australia, Ireland and Germany.

Last month, the US state of Pennsylvania released a report detailing the abuse of more than 1,000 children over a period of decades.

More than 300 clergy members were implicated in the report.

In May, Chile's 34 bishops were summoned to Rome by the pope after Vatican investigators produced a 2,300-page report alleging that senior Church officials in Chile had failed to act on abuse claims and in some cases hid them. 

Pope Francis has accepted the resignations of five of those bishops.

In Australia, a former archbishop was recently convicted of failing to disclose abuse by a priest to the police after being told about it by two of the survivors in the 1970s.

He was spared jail time when he was ordered to serve his one-year sentence at home due to a range of health issues.

In July, Pope Francis accepted the resignation of 88-year-old US Cardinal Theodore McCarrick, ordering him to lead a lifetime of prayer and penance amid allegations that McCarrick had for years sexually abused boys and young adult seminarians.

Pope Francis came under scrutiny himself for his actions in the McCarrick case. 

A senior Vatican official wrote a statement in which he called on Pope Francis to resign, accusing the pontiff of failing to act sooner on the sexual abuse allegations.

During a visit to Ireland in August, Pope Francis told tens of thousands of people gathered in Dublin: "None of us can fail to be moved by the stories of young people who suffered abuse, were robbed of their innocence and left scarred."

Francis also met privately with eight victims of clerical, religious and institutional abuse, saying he would seek greater commitment to eliminate the "scourge".

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