No final decision on Belgian ex-bishop: Vatican

12th April 2011, Comments 0 comments

The Vatican on Tuesday said it had still not taken a "final decision" on the fate of a former Belgian bishop who resigned last year after admitting he sexually abused his nephew for 13 years.

A decision will be made "naturally taking into account the various aspects of this issue, starting with the suffering of the victims and the requirements of the justice system," Vatican spokesman Federico Lombardi said.

Lombardi said Roger Vangheluwe had been ordered to leave Belgium and undergo spiritual and psychological treatment but did not disclose his location.

There was no reference to the former bishop being defrocked but Lombardi said in his statement that it was "obvious" that Vangheluwe would not be allowed to practise as a priest while he was undergoing the treatment.

The Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith will decide his fate, with the final approval left to Pope Benedict XVI, Lombardi said.

Vangheluwe quit as bishop of Bruges when he admitted abusing his nephew between 1973 and 1986, plunging the Catholic Church in Belgium into crisis.

He has gone into seclusion following his resignation and has left Belgium.

After reviewing his case, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which judges the most serious offences, decided to ask Vangheluwe to leave Belgium, the Vatican's nunciature in Brussels announced on Saturday.

Vangheluwe must "undergo a period of spiritual and psychological treatment," the statement said. The former bishop has lived in different locations, "without a permanent address," since his resignation, it said.

Vangheluwe has apologised to his victim, the victim's family, the Church and others. However many have called for him to be dismissed from the Church.

Following his resignation, a Church-backed commission revealed in September 2010 nearly 500 cases of abuse by Belgian priests and lay workers since the 1950s, including 13 victims who had committed suicide.

The decision to send Vangheluwe into exile shocked the head of a parliamentary commission investigating the abuse scandal.

"I would have expected less cowardly behaviour from Mr. Vangheluwe," Socialist lawmaker Karine Lalieux told RTL-TVI earlier.

"I would liked for him to stay (in Belgium) so that maybe one day he could face justice in his country to answer to his crimes," she said, calling the decision to send him away "extraordinary."

© 2011 AFP

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