Belgian cardinal says he should've asked bishop to resign

7th September 2010, Comments 3 comments

The former head of the Belgian Catholic Church on Tuesday admitted he should have asked for the immediate resignation of a bishop who had confessed to the sexual abuse of a minor.

Instead, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, who headed the church between 1979-2009, tried to mediate between the former bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, and his victim, according to a taped conversation between the cardinal and the victim of the abuse that became public.

"Because I suspected there were dissensions within the family (of the bishop) I thought a pastoral approach was appropriate," Danneels said in an interview to several Belgian media.

"I now realise I should've immediately encouraged Vangheluwe to resign," he said.

Danneels in April took part in a meeting between the 73-year-old and several members of his family, during which Vangheluwe recognised sexually abusing his nephew for 13 years, while he was a minor.

The cardinal had asked the victim to accept an apology from Vangheluwe, or at least not make his allegations public until the bishop retired a year later.

Vangheluwe resigned two weeks later.

Belgium is one of the countries worst hit by a rising tide of revelations of paedophilia by Roman Catholic priests in Europe and North America.

© 2010 AFP

3 Comments To This Article

  • Oslack posted:

    on 11th September 2010, 08:02:50 - Reply

    I fail to see how Osaer's press release about the government raids being declared illegal has ANYTHING to do with his employer's actions towards that child molester.
  • tillie posted:

    on 10th September 2010, 16:47:20 - Reply

    He should have FIRED and DEFROCKED the bishop, and turned him into the legal authorities. Why should an admitted criminal get to decide his own fate? He abused this child for 13 years! And, the victim should not have been asked to accept an apology and keep quiet. What kind of values and priorities does this cardinal have? He should be thrown out too.
  • Osaer posted:

    on 9th September 2010, 22:14:06 - Reply


    Today, September 9, the Court of Appeals of Brussels has rendered a judgment with respect to the police raid in the St. Rumbold’s Cathedral and the archdiocese of Mechelen - Brussels. The Court held that the spectacular seizures on June 24 in the offices of the Archdiocese and the residence of former archbishop Cardinal Godfried Danneels in Mechelen were irregular, and therefor illegal, that all documents and objects seized should be returned and that all acts based on material that was illegally seized should be declared null and void. The Court considered that the investigators acted without possessing specific indications of a violation of criminal law by the Archdiocese or Cardinal Danneels and in fact carried out an illegitimate and illegal fishing expedition.
    Mgr. André – Joseph Léonard, the archbishop of Mechlin, hopes this verdict will allow the Belgian Church to direct its full attention to those who have been victims of sexual abuse in a pastoral relationship and who deserve proper recognition and support.
    The Belgian Bishops deeply regret the substantial and partially irreparable damage incurred as a result of the illegal actions of some in the justice system. The raids and seizures have breached the confidence of victims of sexual abuse and tarnished the reputation of both the Church and the Belgian justice system.
    The Church welcomes and fully supports the judicial investigation and prosecution of child abusers. Such investigations should however always be focused and carried out in a correct legal manner, which, as the Court now confirmed, has not been the case up to present.
    By vigorously insisting that brutal force should not replace the principles of law, the Church is not attempting to prevent an investigation, but is contributing to the preservation of fundamental principles which exist to protect those in a position of weakness.
    The Bishops hope that the judgment of the Court of Appeals will help to restore confidence among all parties in this matter.