Rorate Caeli

The Church of the Council, 50 years on
Interview with Dutch Salesian Superior


Summary of recent Interview with Herman Spronck, Dutch superior of the Salesians. Spronck in a response says he does "not agree with the text" and refers to his official response.

Were you aware that Father Van B. was a member of Martijn, an Association of pedophiles?

Yes, I can remember that he told [me]. When, I did not ask. I do not know exactly when that was.

He was a member since 1994, did you know it?

That I cannot remember exactly, but it could be. I have been the superior only since 1995.

Were you aware that that Father Van B. was in the board (2008-2010) of the Pedophile Association Martijn?

I cannot remember. But he told me that he was to become director of an association. Was he not secretary or something? I did not ask him exactly what kind of society that was. He also told me at one point that he wanted to give up. That seemed sensible. But I did not ask for details.

Was it compatible with the ideas of the church that Father Van B. was a member of a pedophiles' association?

I was not sure what kind of association it was. But if you look at the association, it is not [legally] forbidden for Martijn to do what they do. I think that Father Van B. sought help for his feelings. I've always told him that he had to obey the law.

What do you think of Father Van B., who was twice convicted [for indecent exposure], did he obey the law?

I repeatedly told him what he should do. He was warned several times for flashing, which is, of course, not a serious offense.

You never found the membership of Martijn and convictions for sexual offenses a reason for Father Van B. to leave the order?

No. I have to give him a dignified life. Somebody is placed out of the order only if there is a serious sexual offense, such as rape. And that's never been the case.

But to a pedophile priest to work in churches where he comes into contact with children, without their knowing it, is that really a good idea?

I have always told Father Van B. that he had to obey the law and nothing has ever really happened. So I saw no reason to doubt Father Van B..

Father Van B. says himself that it is necessary to watch him near children. If not, then the pressure increases and he is afraid that things go wrong. What do you say?

I have never seen a reason why he could not work with children. Only in 2007 - after the incident when he worked in the parish of St Luke in Amsterdam - I decided it was sensible that he no longer work with children. I got him sent to Nijmegen. He takes care to older brothers.


How do you feel about sexual relations between adults and children?
Of course there are certain social norms that everyone has to comply with. But one wonders if that is not going too far. Formally, I always say that everyone must obey the law strictly. But these relationships are not necessarily harmful.

You believe that relationships between adults and children are not necessarily harmful?

I have an example. I was once approached by a 14-year-old boy who had a relationship with an older priest. He was sent away, and this boy suffered immensely, he suffered because [the priest] had been sent away. He told me, "Father Herman, why did you send him away?" And, now, what should I say to a boy like this?

So, then, relationships between adults and children are fine?

Personally, I believe that relationships between adults and children are not necessarily wrong [Persoonlijk wijs ik relaties tussen volwassenen en kinderen niet per definitie af.] Do you know Foucault? The philosopher. Do you know his writings? No, you should read that once again, especially the introduction to Part 4. It does depend on the child. You should not look so inflexibly at age. You should never enter into the personal space of a child if the child does not want it, but that depends on the child himself. There are children who themselves indicate that it is admissible. Then, sexual contact is possible.


At what age do you think that sexual relationships are possible?
Saying the age of 18 years is, I think, too inflexible.

Do you think that from the age of 12 years then is fine for sexual relationships with adults?

If it were up to me, they should be.

Will there be in the Salesian Order any more relationships between older people and children?

Just imagine that in the 50s/60s all lived together in 's Heerenberg. We were all away from our family and had only each other. Adults and boys - there was no woman to see - then lived together and some things bloom.

If you look back now, did you act properly when it came to Father Van B.?

I could not do anything else. I've always stood up for him.

The board membership was no reason to place him out of the order?

No, that seems going too far.
[Note: The prophets of doom and gloom were right.]

23/5/2011 - RMG – Paedophilia: Incompatible with the principles and values of Salesian tradition

(ANS – Rome) – In a Press Statement issued this morning by ANS, the Salesian Congregation rejects any possible relativisation of paedophilia. The issuing of this statement was made necessary following the positions expressed by Dutch Salesians Fr B. and Fr Herman Spronck. This morning the North Belgium Holland Province officially announced that Fr B. no longer has permission to carry out any pastoral activity and that Fr Spronck has been relieved of his office as Delegate.

The following is the Official Statement of the Salesian Congregation communicated this morning to press agencies in the wake of what appeared in some of the Dutch media.

With regard to what has been reported in recent days in the Dutch Press and now in the Press of Italy and other countries, in reference to the Salesian Fr B., we confirm the contents of the press statement of the Salesian Provincial of Belgium-Holland, Fr. Jos Claes, in which is clearly expressed his consternation at learning from the press that Fr B. has been a member of the “Martijn” Association.

Being a member of such an association is absolutely incompatible with the principles and values of Salesian tradition. Therefore we strongly disapprove of this fact and we distance ourselves from this kind of personal behaviour by an individual confrere. We can understand that this news has undoubtedly once again seriously wounded the justified sensitivities of many persons. We can understand their pain and we offer our excuses in the name of the Salesians of Don Bosco.

With regard to the confrere concerned, the Congregation will take the necessary disciplinary steps, in conformity with the protocol in place since 2002 and with the norms given by the Church in this matter.

In addition, in this statement we intend to dis-associate ourselves from the first declarations of Fr Herman Spronck, expressed in an interview with the Dutch press (at least as far as we can le learn from the interview reported), which seem to relativise the seriousness of the fact.

The Salesian Congregation re-affirms its commitment to fidelity to Don Bosco, to its great educational tradition and in the footsteps of Don Bosco, to total fidelity to the teaching of the Church. Full and total respect for children, youths and young people remain for us a fundamental and indispensable option.

Published 23/05/2011