Church 'stupefied' at new Belgian child sex bishop horror

15th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

The Catholic Church was left "stupefied" Friday as Belgium reacted with revulsion to new child sex abuse horrors admitted by an ex-bishop that the Vatican placed in exile rather than face earthly justice.

Roger Vangheluwe told Belgian television that he abused one nephew for 13 years and another for nearly 12 months -- but that there was "no penetration" and that he didn't "in the slightest" think he was a paedophile.

Days after church bosses ordered Vangheluwe to undergo "spiritual and psychological treatment" in a French hide-out, identified by media as La Ferte-Imbault in the wine-rich Loire Valley, Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme laid into remarks he said "go beyond the boundary of what is acceptable."

"The Church must assume its responsibilities -- this cannot go on," Leterme insisted.

Belgium's bishops likewise expressed collective "shock" at comments "playing down" and "offering excuses" for years spent sexually abusing boys while preaching from a pulpit -- and a Thursday night media appearance they said contravened strict orders from Rome.

"We trusted him to withdraw in silence abroad," a statement said.

In the Vatican City, Pope Benedict XVI's spokesman Federico Lombardi said the Holy See was "conscious of the gravity" of Vangheluwe's case, and was assembling "the necessary elements" for a "detailed evaluation."

He said the Belgian bishops had perfectly expressed "the feelings of stupefaction and concern aroused."

Lombardi said earlier this week that the Vatican was considering "the requirements of the justice system" in Belgium.

"This is a sick man speaking, either that or it's the standard reaction of a paedophile," noted the bishop of Tournai, Guy Harpigny.

The Belgian bishops also called for the Vatican to make on decision on Vangheluwe.La conférence des évêques de Belgique a appelé vendredi le Vatican

© 2011 AFP

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