Belgian cardinal says no 'conscious' sex-abuse cover-up
The former head of Belgium's Roman Catholic Church said Tuesday that top bishops did not "consciously" cover up a child sex abuse scandal going back decades.
Cardinal Godfried Danneels spent four hours being quizzed by Belgian lawmakers at a hearing into the scandal of nearly 500 cases of abuse by priests and church workers since the 1950s, including 13 victims who committed suicide.
Expressing his "horror" at the revelations produced by a church-backed commission this year, Danneels, the church's chief between 1979 and 2009, said "there was no drive to consciously cover up the sexual abuse or deny it."
The 77-year-old said he wanted to "explicitly acknowledge and express very clearly my horror for what (the victims) endured at the hands of servants of the church."
He said perpetrators should "pay damages as established by justice" but refused to say if the church itself should pay victims.
"This decision will be taken in the coming weeks by the conference of bishops, of which I am no longer a member," he said.
Danneels' successor, Andre-Joseph Leonard, will appear before lawmakers on Wednesday, the same day a court is expected to decide if truckloads of evidence seized by police in spectacular raids on the Belgian Catholic Church HQ are admissible in judicial proceedings.
© 2010 AFP