300 abuse complaints unpunished by Belgian bishops

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Belgian bishops have failed to punish any clergy over 300 complaints of paedophilia brought to their attention in the 1990s, a priest who helped many victims claimed on Monday.

BRUSSELS - "We brought forward between 1992 and 1998 more than 300 complaints from victims of abuse committed by priests, but only 15 ended up with admissions" of guilt, Father Rick Deville told the Flemish dailies De Standaard and Het Nieuwsblad.

"A priest accused would most often be moved, but was never punished," he complained.

Founder of the group "human rights in the church" which defends victims of abuse, the 65-year-old Deville deplored the lack of support from the Belgian Catholic hierarchy.

"Very few bishops helped us," he added. In most cases the victims were told that their actions were 'unfortunately banned'," the Catholic priest said.

In some cases the victims themselves were accused of defamation, he stressed.

"We had one case of a priest accused of three counts of abuse and who each time was moved to an area where he was not known and where he continued abusing," he recalled.

Deville, now retired, was formerly the parish priest in a Brussels suburb.

The new Belgian primate, Archbishop Andre Leonard, admitted that abuse was a long-running problem which the church must remedy.

"For decades the church has badly handled the problem of paedophilia within its ranks," he said in his Easter homily denouncing a "guilty silence."

Eric De Beukelaer, spokesman for the conference of Belgian catholic bishops, had proposed the creation of an enquiry committee on how the church nationally has treated the question of paedophilia among members of the clergy.


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