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Episode 1: ​ Silence is gold

In the first episode, victims recount how the abuse began and the years of physical and mental consequences. Often the abuse was preceded by a major event in their lives, such as the death of a parent. The witnesses describe how clergy exploited the weak and vulnerable position they were in to dominate them, and later abuse them.

They tell of the shame, of not daring to tell, of the sadism and mental and physical abuse, which sometimes lasted for years. Those humiliations were often so painful that they still carry the consequences decades later.


Episode 2: ​ In the name of the father

The second episode focuses not on the victims, but on their parents and relatives. What signals did they pick up? How did they deal with the knowledge that their child was abused by someone they trusted? They talk about guilt, shame and misunderstood signals.

Some of them showed the courage to fight the church hierarchy, from which they often did not emerge without further damage. At the same time, a social evolution is taking place that is irreversible.


Episode 3: Operation Kelk

June 24, 2010. Detectives conduct searches at the Archdiocesan Palace as part of an investigation into possible cover-up of child abuse by priests and fathers. Since a camera crew happens to be nearby, everything is put on film.

The footage goes around the world, in Belgium the bomb bursts. Shortly before, the nephew of a high-ranking Belgian bishop had recorded a conversation with his uncle, who had abused him as a child for 13 years, and Cardinal Danneels. The so-called Danneels tapes proved to be a stick to push the church into swift action.


Episode 4: Forever and ever

Operation Kelk ends with a hiss; a legal consequence in Belgium seems unlikely. In an ultimate effort, some Belgian victims are pinning their hopes on a charge they previously brought against the Pope in Rome.

Despite the legal setbacks, many victims remain combative. It is their fight as the legacy of abuse weighs heavily. As long as perpetrators roam free and risk creating new victims, survivors cannot fully come to terms with their past.


KU leuven



This study on Catholic-inspired poverty care in Brussels between 1945 and 2000 is conducted by doctoral student Els Minne. Central to the research is the question of how Catholic poverty organisations managed their religious identity in a society that was firmly rooted in Catholic traditions, but where the pressures of ‘secularisation’ and ‘modernity’ began to increase. The research starts from eight case studies of both Catholic personalities and Catholic-inspired organisations that took up the fight against poverty.


Through an analysis of letters, newspaper articles, publications and oral history, the practices and discourses of these actors are examined. What help did these organisations offer, and what target group did they have in mind? What role did religion, from volunteers or clients, play in the organisations? In what ways did they try to influence political policy or academic research on poverty? How did the organisations respond to the increasingly diverse group of people living in poverty? By seeking answers to these questions, the project aims to complement knowledge about the role of religion and welfare states with local experiences, thoughts and practices.

Oral History and the strange dying of Dutch Christianity

Bijdragen en Mededelingen betreffende de Geschiedenis der Nederlanden. Deel 119 | 4
(2004), pg 625-653




Forty-three semi-structured in-depth interviews were conducted with older people for this study. The questions focused on the role of religion in the respondents’ childhood and changes in their religious behaviour during their lifetime, with a large implicit emphasis on issues around gender. The interviews generally lasted about two hours. The respondents were randomly selected. They represent a reasonable, but not purely representative, reflection of the Dutch population. Geographically, there is a good spread, with respondents from all provinces except Overijssel, albeit with an overrepresentation of people from Amsterdam and North Holland above the IJ. Many more women (31) than men (12) were interviewed. There were too many respondents from Catholic families (23 instead of 17), too few from Protestant (13 instead of 19), compared with the religious proportions in the Netherlands before 1960, as revealed in the censuses, but just the right number of people who grew up in an unchurch family (7). Although too many respondents came from the lower middle class (23), the study nevertheless includes 15 interviews with people whose parents were labourers, in addition to three children of farmers and two interviewees who came from the upper middle class. Six respondents were born in the 1910s, 13 in the 1920s, 16 in the 1930s, eight in the first half of the 1940s.


Thus, the whole relies on a reasonable number of interviews. Similarities and recurring motifs in the interviews proved sufficient to paint a picture of what religion was like in the Netherlands before the 1960s. It was not easy to make distinctions within them, for example between Catholics, Reformed and Reformed, or between different decades and generations. For example, some interviews give the impression that the 1950s were more ‘religious’ and ‘ecclesiastical’ than the 1930s, but this could easily be based on a bias. Further research would be needed to answer such questions.

Radical salvation

Radicale verlossing – Wat terroristen geloven

Beatrice de Graaf

Prometeus, 2021

ISBN: 9789044646573

Beatrice de Graaf has interviewed some 20 violent jihadis for her book Radical Redemption, In doing so, she also sheds light on the personal souls of terrorists.

‘The suicide bomber or pious fighter often makes an explicit appeal to his God who would command him to kill ‘infidels’. But at the same time, he also appears to be beset by other motives such as a lack of recognition by his fellow man, a belief in a kingdom of salvation or utopia that he must realise, an opposition between his own ‘good’ group’ and the ‘bad’ others that is held to be absolute.


Beatrice de Graaf discusses these ‘other motives’ in more detail. The strength of her book is that thanks to the oral history method, in which she conducts several in-depth interviews, she takes jihadis’ own perspective seriously. She thus makes it plausible that they are not crazy but engaged in a coherent combination of ideology and practice, which she calls ‘orthopraxis’. Guilt over one’s own decadent life in the Netherlands, characterised by criminal profiteering and/or drug use and so starkly contrasted with the needs of Syrians, is a driving force. Only something big can still bring salvation.

Terrorism, according to De Graaf, can be summed up in four Rs: revenge, renown, reaction and redemption or, in other words, revenge on the evil world, desire for one’s own glory, drive to action and craving for atonement and then redemption. Terrorists, in short, want to become martyrs.

Thy will be done

Meisjes in de klas bij het St. Joseph pensionaat in Woerden. [1941]. 6001254, Wiel van der Randen, Spaarnestad Photo

Uw wil geschiede – Kinderen op katholieke kostscholen

Truska Bast

Querido, 2017

ISBN: 9789021406701

What Truska Bast wants to show is how the system was set up in which that abuse could occur. How it is possible that other children actually had ‘a fine time’ there. How it is possible that one existed alongside the other – and everything in between. And why it was kept quiet about for so long.


In Uw wil geschiede, twenty former pupils talk about their time at boarding school – stories of men and women who were placed under the care of religious between roughly 1945 and 1970. Some of them were sexually abused and some were ‘only’ psychologically humiliated (they also had long nightmares about it). But there are also cheerful stories, of girls who secretly went to the convent garden to look at the nuns’ pants lying there on a bleaching field to dry. Or sneaking off to buy an ice cream at Jamin. ‘Without that boarding school, I would never have got such a good education,’ says someone.

What kind of children were they anyway, taken to boarding school by their parents at 12 (and sometimes as early as nine or 10)? Why did those parents do that? Why didn’t Protestants have boarding schools? And what expectations did the children have, the first time they were delivered to boarding school with a big suitcase full of numbered clothes, sheets and napkins?

Roman Catholic daughters

Roomse dochters, Katholieke vrouwen en hun beweging

Marjet Derks, Catharina Halkes, Annelies van Heyst

Arbor, Baarn, 1992

ISBN 90 5158 047 9

Based on interviews with 12 women who were active in women’s organisations, in politics and journalism, they paint a picture of Catholic women’s culture in the 20th century. A mixture of oral history and sleuthing in archives; and as far as that oral transmission is concerned barely in time.


Women have been greatly underexposed in the historiography of 20th-century Dutch Catholicism. When attention was paid to them, the emphasis was on experiences of sexuality and motherhood. This gave rise to stereotypical images of the passive, meek and sacrificial woman.
Yet women did play an active role in Catholic social and church life. In ‘Roman Daughters’, 12 women are portrayed. They have, each in their own way, taken initiatives and held leadership positions in women’s and standing organisations, politics and journalism. The portraits have been compiled from archive and interview material and are accompanied by an afterthought.
The women in this book appear not to have been so expectant and docile. They gave a hand to their destiny, when necessary. Also, the wrinkle-free, uniform image of ‘the’ Catholic woman turns out to be a caricature. For the first time, this book reveals the differences by class or position among Catholic women. Making these differences visible is in line with the trend within women’s history to present a more differentiated picture of women’s past.

And yet different

Zusters van Liefde van Onze Lieve Vrouw, Moeder van Barmhartigheid 1960/2000

A. van der Veen, D. Verhoeven
Uitgeverij Verloren b.v., 2005

ISBN: 9789065508683


Nuns in the turbulent 1960s and beyond, that was the subject of this historical study. On the basis of archive material, but especially on the basis of many conversations with sisters, we looked for essential changes as well as constants in a congregation more than a century and a half old.


A wave of renewal rolled through Western society in the 1960s, including the Catholic churches and monasteries. Just about everything changed in the lives of monastics: their work, their way of life, their appearance and how they interacted with each other and others. Many dropped out, others developed a new way of being religious within monastic life. This book shows how this process of change took place among the ‘Sisters of Tilburg’, as they are popularly known. They form the largest Dutch sister congregation with branches in more than ten countries, spread over four continents. Based on archive research and many interviews, a varied picture emerged: of joy over new opportunities, of pain over the loss of traditions, of uncertainty about the new course, but above all of the struggle to remain united as a group while allowing members to be different.

Sisters of ‘t Ketrientje

boz - 0478 Foto Archief Bergen op Zoom - Franciscanessen van Huize Sint Catharina, 1917

Zusters van ‘t Ketrientje

Annelies van Heijst en Dolly Verhoeven

Uitgeverij Vantilt

ISBN 9789460041464

The Franciscans of Bergen op Zoom, or the Sisters of ‘t Ketrientje, have a long tradition of providing care. In 1838, they started in the Algemeen Burgerlijk Gasthuis, where they cared for the sick and infirm of various faiths. From 1857, they also took care of orphans, and in 1882 they also started caring for the elderly. They did so in the St. Catharinagesticht, which also housed their congregation’s mother house. The sisters were also active outside Bergen op Zoom. In 1933, far beyond the Dutch borders, they started a mission in Soekaboemie on Java. During the war years, twelve of the mission sisters were in a Japanese camp there. After Indonesia became independent, the foreign branch of the congregation increasingly stood on its own two feet, and in 1996 it also became formally independent.
In the past 175 years, nearly 400 women committed themselves for life to this sister congregation. In the 21st century, the congregation is ageing, like other religious congregations in the West. Although the Sisters do not like to be the centre of attention, they are featured in this book and Bergen residents tell about them. This brings to life what generations of Sisters of ‘t Ketrientje have done since 1838 and what they have meant to the church and society.

Children’s village Neerbosch


The start of research into the history of youth care, lies in the anniversary book on the Neerbosch Children’s Village. For that project, Anton van Renssen made eight oral-history interviews on video with former residents of the Children’s Village.

Het wezendorp Neerbosch

De protestants-christelijke weesinrichting Neerbosch en haar stichter Johannes van ‘t Lindenhout (1863-1903)

Anton van Renssen

ISBN: 9789492055156

In 1863, evangelist Johannes van ‘t Lindenhout founded an orphanage in a former inn in Nijmegen. In 30 years, his initiative grew in the polders outside the city into an orphan village with over 50 hectares of land, 41 buildings and over 1,100 residents. And that entirely based on donations from private individuals, municipal poor relief associations and church deaconies. This study describes the genesis of this orphan village, the largest residential institution in the Netherlands in the second half of the nineteenth century. Much attention is paid to the Protestant-Christian signature of the orphanage and how this was reflected in the educational principles of Van ‘t Lindenhout and in the daily upbringing of the children.

Birthmothers and adoption children


The Paula Foundation was a home for unmarried pregnant women. It was run by the Little Sisters of St Joseph, a Heerlen congregation. After 1972, the foundation developed into a crisis shelter centre for women who were victims of domestic violence. Later, other target groups were added: victims of honour-related violence, men and also victims of human trafficking. This research should result in a book on the history of the Paulastichting and its legal successors, the Hera foundation and the Moviera foundation in Oosterbeek, in the spring of 2022.


In one of the courtyards of the Paula Foundation in Oosterbeek after its official opening on 31 May 1967 by Cardinal Alfrink.


Moviera’s Oosterbeek location closed in the spring of 2022. Moviera is a foundation for helping victims of domestic violence. At its request, Dr Anton van Renssen described the history of this location. That story begins in 1966, the year the Paula foundation moved from Utrecht to the Dreijerheide estate in Oosterbeek.