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Belgian cardinal told victim to be silent until bishop who abused him retired

Catholic World News - August 30, 2010

During an April 8 meeting, Cardinal Godfried Danneels urged the man abused by Bishop Roger Vangheluwe of Brugges to remain silent about the abuse until the bishop retired, according to a tape secretly made by the victim. Transcripts of the tape were published in the Belgian press over the weekend.

“The bishop will resign next year, so actually it would be better for you to wait,” said Cardinal Danneels, who had retired nearly three months earlier as archbishop of Malines-Brussels. “I don’t think you’d do yourself or him a favor by shouting this from the rooftops.”

After Cardinal Danneels asked the victim-- a nephew of the bishop-- not to drag “his name through the mud,” the victim responded, “He has dragged my whole life through the mud, from 5 until 18 years old,” adding, “Why do you feel so sorry for him and not for me?”

Reuters also reported that “the man pleads for help but Danneels, 77, who had stepped down as Brussels archbishop in January, says he cannot discipline Vangheluwe or inform higher authorities, including Pope Benedict. The bishop should turn himself in, he says.”

During a subsequent meeting, which was also secretly taped, Cardinal Danneels and Bishop Vangheluwe met with the victim and another relative. After the bishop apologized, the nephew responded, “This is unsolvable,” adding, “You’ve torn our family completely apart.”

A spokesman for Cardinal Danneels said that the Belgian prelate now realizes he was “naïve” to meet with the bishop’s victim without having been adequately prepared for the encounter. “He realizes that the whole approach, as it was, was not the right one,” the spokesman said.

In its August 30 coverage of the story, The New York Times misreported-- and the error is a serious one-- that “the Vatican accepted the bishop’s resignation in June.” In reality, the Holy See announced on April 23 (the day the allegations became public) that Bishop Vangheluwe’s resignation had been accepted.

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Show 6 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: lauriem5377 - Sep. 02, 2010 10:08 AM ET USA

    We can draw two lessons from the scandals around us: to lift our voices and prayers up in support and understanding and comfort for the victims and to be ever vigilant as a laity - to speak up when we become aware of things that are not right in our Church. Our Church becomes only stronger when we follow our Lord's commandments and example. Care for and about each victim; pray for true repentance and Divine Mercy for those who sinned against them.

  • Posted by: hartwood01 - Aug. 31, 2010 8:46 AM ET USA

    We Catholics must remember before we get judgmental about other belief systems that our doorstep is so very muddy! The shepherds who have pastured themselves instead of their flocks have done great harm to the Body of Christ.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 31, 2010 12:03 AM ET USA

    It is hard to read this,“He realizes that the whole approach, as it was, was not the right one,” No kidding! What is wrong with these men? How is it possible to see the evil of an action and a church man is incapable of condemning such an evil? I just don't get it!

  • Posted by: Cornelius - Aug. 30, 2010 1:46 PM ET USA

    Clericalism at its very worst. Or is it "collegiality"? I get the two mixed up, with good reason.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Aug. 30, 2010 11:51 AM ET USA

    Once again, the greater scandal is not the sexual abuse but the response of the hierarchy to it.

  • Posted by: raymondfrice9926 - Aug. 30, 2010 8:11 AM ET USA

    This cardinal is a disgrace to the Church and to all Catholics.

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