Child abuse bishop disappears from French monastery

17th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

A Belgian former bishop has disappeared from his French religious community three days after he admitted to sexually abusing two of his nephews, its leader told AFP on Sunday.

Roger Vangheluwe resigned as Bishop of Bruges last year after confessing to having sex with his underage nephew, but was not prosecuted as the crimes had taken place several years previously before the statute of limitations.

Last week, he again caused outraged when he gave a television interview in which he also admitted to molesting a second nephew but insisted he did not consider hiself a paedophile nor a threat to children.

"How did it start?" Vangheluwe said in the interview. "As in all families: when they came to visit, my nephews would stay over.

"It began as a kind of game with this boy. It was never a question of rape, or physical violence. He never saw me naked and there was no penetration.

"I don't in the slightest have any sense I am a paedophile. I don't get the impression my nephew was opposed, quite the contrary," he added although he also admitted: "I knew it wasn't good, I confessed it several times."

After the first scandal, The Vatican ordered him to seek "spiritual and psychological treatment" at a church community La Ferte-Imbault in France, and to stay out of the public eye.

Following the interview, which outraged many in Belgium and drew a sharp denunciation from the Council of Bishops, there were calls for him to be prosecuted. But on Sunday it emerged that he had gone.

"He left last night," the mother superior of the Brotherhood of Jerusalem told AFP at the community. Asked where he had gone, she said: "I don't know. We are referring all questions to the papal nuncio's office in Belgium."

The case plunged the Belgian Catholic Church anew into turmoil, with several bishops asking the Vatican to act quickly to punish Vangheluwe.

In September 2010, the church was rocked by nearly 500 cases of abuse by priests since the 1950s, including 13 victims who committed suicide.

© 2011 AFP

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