Vatican too slow to act on abuse claims

May 26, 2011 12:00 am

, THE NETHERLANDS, May 26 – A Dutch Roman Catholic Bishop was allowed to remain at his post in Kenya for two years after the Vatican was informed that he had sexually abused a minor.

Bishop Cornelius Schilder was sent into early retirement in 2009, \’officially\’ for health reasons. The head of his congregation says Rome could have acted sooner.

"He gave me a coffee, showed me my room and started touching me immediately,\’ says Michael ole Uka, describing the first time he met Schilder.

The 32-year-old Kenyan accuser, a member of the Maasai tribe, has gone public with his allegations for the first time. Uka revealed new details of the case in a TV documentary that was broadcast on the RTE network on Monday night.

Radio Netherlands Worldwide has obtained uncut interview material from RTE, most of it as yet unaired.

Uka says his life is in ruins while the bishop is enjoying his retirement in Europe. He says the abuse began when he was 14.

He accuses Schilder and at least one other member of the Mill Hill congregation of rape. The abuse occurred in the early 1990s when Schilder was a parish priest in Ngong, Kenya. The victim also accused an Irish clergyman named \’Gerry\’ who has since been stripped of his priesthood.

Schilder \’asked me whether I touched Gerry and I said yes,\’ Uka said. \’Then he told me to touch him and do what I did with Gerry. To me, it seemed all these priests do this. I knew it was a bad thing.\’

Cornelius Schilder (69), who is now living at a Mill Hill retirement home in the Netherlands, maintains his innocence and has declined to speak to the media.

Schilder is the first Dutch bishop to be punished by the Vatican for sexually abusing a minor. He is no longer permitted to perform the duties of a bishop or a priest. His dismissal first made headlines in March this year when it was reported in the Kenyan media.

The allegations against Schilder were investigated by his own congregation in Kenya and sent on to the Vatican in 2007. However, the Bishop remained at his post for another two years before Rome retired him.

Anthony Chantry, who heads the Mill Hill Missionaries worldwide, says "I suppose I\’d have to say personally, from my own experience, it probably took too long. Eventually they do act, but they do take their time."  Also speaking publicly about the case for the first time, Chantry told RTE he is frustrated and hopes the Vatican will \’speed up its processes\’.

After the abuse occurred, Uka realised he had been manipulated. \’When I stayed the night, Schilder showed me my room. Only later did I discover that it was his own room. What I also came to understand is that the priests knew each other, that Schilder knew what was going on with me and Gerry. It\’s like someone else is owning your life. I feel a lot of shame.\’

Despite the possibility that the bishop may have abused others who have not stepped forward, Reverend Chantry defends the Vatican\’s decision not to tell Kenyan churchgoers the real reason for Schilder\’s dismissal: "I imagine they felt the important thing was to withdraw him from the diocese and to have him in a position where he was supervised and looked after."

Chantry admits he did not inform Kenyan churchgoers about the abuse because he might face retribution from the Vatican. "I think I would probably be asked why I took it upon myself to do that. There have been articles in the local newspapers recently so some information has reached the public domain. People are aware of what\’s happened," Chantry said.

Uka says he feels isolated now that he has gone public with his allegations.  "Sometimes I regret speaking. I don\’t regret the fact that Schilder has been sent away.  But it\’s very hard because people talk rubbish about me. They ask me why I have spoken out about this.  Uka also says he\’s afraid his children will one day find out about his past. If it weren\’t for these problems following me, I would have been a good father."

According to Uka, Schilder refused to acknowledge the abuse during a meeting arranged by the Mill Hill congregation in Kenya before the case was sent on to the Vatican. Uka says Schilder contacted him shortly after the meeting, however, and offered him a cow.

In Maasai tradition, the victim explains, a cow is sometimes offered as compensation for wrongdoing.  "He\’s a coward of the truth, a liar, not a good man at all," Uka says.

Anthony Chantry wants it known that the Mill Hill Missionaries have helped Michael ole Uka by offering him counselling and medical treatment. Uka says he has also received financial assistance from his former parish church in Ngong.

However, he does not feel justice has been done.  "The Mill Hill fathers tried to bring justice, but I don\’t see it. I still have faith. I still pray to God. But not in the church."

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