Belgian prosecutors weigh new charge against Bishop Vangheluwe
CWN - April 19, 2011
Prosecutors in Belgium are reportedly weighing the possibility of filing criminal charges against Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, who has now publicly confessed to sexual abuse of two of his nephews.
The bishop, who resigned his post as head of the Bruges diocese last year, inflamed public opinion in Belgium last week with a television interview in which he suggested that the abuse was not a serious offense. Although the statute of limitations would appear to shield him from criminal charges, prosecutors are considering some other means of forcing Vangheluwe to face charges.
Bishop Vangheluwe has been suspended from ministry, left Belgium, and was undergoing psychological evaluation, at the direction of the Vatican. Shortly after his controversial television appearance he left the French monastery where he had been lodged.
Prosecutors are also likely to press an investigation into the possibility that other Belgian prelates were aware of Bishop Vangheluwe's misconduct before it became public last year. The head of an independent body charged by the Belgian hierarchy with the investigation of abuse complaints said last year that Cardinal Godfried Danneels, the retired Archbishop of Brussels, had been aware of the abuse since 1996. Cardinal Danneels denied that charge.
Tensions between the Belgian hierarchy and public prosecutors reached a peak last June 24, when police raided the offices of the bishops' conference and the residence of Cardinal Danneels. Church officials bitterly protested the raid, and a Belgian court eventually ruled that it was illegal.
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