Henk Heithuis was 20 years old in 1956 when he was castrated in a Dutch Catholic hospital. Two years later he was dead. According to a report in the U.K. newspaper The Telegraph, Heithuis and at least nine others were surgically castrated on order of the Catholic church “as a treatment for homosexuality and also as a punishment for those who accused clergy of sexual abuse.”
The explosive allegations are part of a report by Dutch investigative journalist Joep Dohmen, who told the Telegraph that of the ten reports he uncovered, only Heithuis is named. As for the other nine, he said, “These cases are anonymous and can no longer be traced. There will be many more. But the question is whether those boys, now old men, will want to tell their story.”
The story of Henk Heithuis was brought to light by Dutch sculptor Cornelius Rogge, now 79, whose family knew Heithuis. Rogge first attempted to report the young man’s abuse at the hands of the church as part of an official inquiry launched in December of 2011 by Dutch cabinet minister Wim Deetman.
The Deetman inquiry chose not to look into the allegations, saying that there were “few leads to conduct further research.” Evidence emerged on Monday, however, that not only was the Catholic church ordering castrations, but that government inspectors were present at the meetings discussing castrations and that officials felt no particular need to consult the patients’ families.
Records show that Henk Heithuis, at 20 years old, was considered a minor when he reported to police that had been sexually abused by priests in the Catholic boarding home where he lived. Two priests were ultimately convicted of abuse, but Heithuis was transferred from police custody to a Catholic psychiatric hospital and from there to St. Joseph Hospital in Veghel, where his testicles were removed.
Hospital officials say that the young man was surgically castrated at his own request, but no written record of his consent to the procedure exists. Heithuis died in a car crash two years later in 1958.
Cornelius Rogge testified that he had seen evidence of the castration. “We once asked Henk to drop his pants when the women were gone. He did that. He was maimed totally. It was a huge shock,” he said.
The Deetman inquiry has received more than 1800 reports of sexual abuse by clergy of church volunteers within the Dutch Catholic Diocese since 1945. The Guardian estimates that the number of victims may be in the tens of thousands. The allegations reach as high as a former Prime Minister of the Netherlands, Vic Marijnen, who died in 1975.
Marijnen was the chairman of the Catholic children’s home in 1956 where Heithuis was abused. The Telegraph says that he intervened in the sentencing of several priests convicted of abuse and lobbied to have their prison sentences dropped.
Dutch Labor Party MP Khadija Arib said that she is shocked by the reports of castration. “I want an independent investigation,” she said, “We must find out how many cases there were, who knew about it and why the government did not act.”
The Dutch Parliament is expected to call today for a full parliamentary investigation into the charges.
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