Cardinal Ad Simonis (photo, from bbcimg.co.uk), a senior figure in the Dutch Catholic Church, protected a priest knowing he had sexually abused children, Dutch media reports say.
The cardinal, who served as archbishop from 1983 to 2007, is accused of knowing of the allegations made against the priest, who has not been named, when he transferred him to another parish, where he abused again.
According to AFP news agency he said that at the time he believed that the priest had changed.
He described as “lamentable” the priest’s renewed abuse in Amersfoort.
Following the local bishop’s complains about his abuse, the priest was moved from his parish in Zoetermeer to a parish in Amersfoort, Radio Netherlands says.
Radio Netherlands also reports that he did not tell the new parish of Amersfoort about the allegations against the priest or monitor his behaviour.
According to the radio station Dutch officials say six of the priest’s victims reported incidents to the police from 1987 to 2008.
Erwin Meester says he was abused by the priest. Radio Free Netherland quoted him as saying that Cardinal Simonis “wilfully and knowingly gave a paedophile his protection, when he should have been protecting the faithful under his care”.
AFP said the cardinal admitted in a statement that he was “aware” of the priest’s history but said that had undergone therapy and received “serious, written psychological advice” which he believed was “adequate” ahead of the appointment.
Arguing that the allegations first came to light on Wednesday, Cardinal Ad Simonis, who is now retired, added that there had never been any signal from the parish that the priest “had fallen back into child abuse”.
Last year, the cardinal caused outrage when he commented on abuse within the Catholic Church in the Netherlands, saying 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 addition to three cases dating from 1950 to 1970, an independent inquiry into more than 200 allegations of sexual abuse of children by priests was ordered in March 2010 by Dutch bishops.
The first allegations came from people who said they were abused by Catholic priests in Don Rua monastery school in the eastern Netherlands in the 1960s and 70s.
Then dozens more alleged victims from other institutions came forward.