By STEPHEN CASTLE -BRUSSELS — The sex abuse crisis in the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands deepened Thursday when one of its senior figures was said to have shielded a pedophile priest.
Reports in three news media outlets increased the pressure on the cardinal, Adrianus Simonis, the retired archbishop of Utrecht, who last month testified as a witness in a legal action taken by one of almost 2,000 people who have said they were victims of abuse.
The crisis in the Netherlands is another setback for the Roman Catholic Church, which has been roiled by sexual abuse allegations from Ireland and Belgium to the United States.
Cardinal Simonis caused some distress in the Netherlands last March, when he was asked on television about the hundreds of complaints surfacing against the church and replied in German rather than Dutch, saying “Wir haben esnicht gewusst” — or, “We knew nothing.”
The phrase, which is associated with Nazi excuses after World War II, drew uncomfortable parallels for the church, which has been accused of covering up the issue of sexual abuse.
The reports on Thursday, by Radio Netherlands Worldwide, the NRC Handelsblad newspaper and the Dutch television program Nieuwsuur, said the cardinal was told by the then-bishop of Rotterdam, Philippe Bär, that a priest had sexually abused boys in his parish in Zoetermeer. Archbishop Simonis later arranged for the man to be moved to a parish in Amersfoort.
The name of the suspected abuser was not given in the news reports.
In a statement issued Thursday, Cardinal Simonis said the priest in question had been allowed to stay in the church but only after undergoing lengthy therapy and on the basis of a psychological report.
If new evidence about the case emerged it would have to be reassessed, he said, and that would be regrettable.
On Thursday Martin de Witte, a lawyer acting for several alleged victims, said the article proved that pedophiles were systematically protected.
“He didn’t do anything, he said of the cardinal, adding, “He was not protecting the children, he was protecting the people who did the abuse.”
Figures released in December showed that almost 2,000 people had made complaints of sexual or physical abuse against the church, in a country with four million Catholics.