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Vatican II peritus, potential Nobel Peace Prize winner, admits abuse

Catholic World News - December 29, 2010

Father François Houtart, an 85-year-old Belgian activist priest who served as a peritus at the Second Vatican Council, has admitted twice abusing his cousin in 1970. His cousin was then an eight-year-old boy.

The grandson of a Belgian prime minister and eldest of 14 children, Houtart participated in the resistance against Nazi occupation as a teenager during World War II.

Ordained a priest of the Archdiocese of Malines-Brussels in 1949, Houtart taught at the Catholic University of Louvain from 1958 to 1990. As a peritus at Vatican II, he assisted Cardinal Leo Jozef Suenens and served as secretary of the subcommission that drafted the introduction to Gaudium et Spes, the pastoral constitution on the Church in the modern world.

In awarding Houtart the Madanjeet Singh Prize in 2009, UNESCO noted:

François Houtart (Belgium) received the award for his life-long commitment to world peace, intercultural dialogue, human rights and the promotion of tolerance, and in recognition of his outstanding eff orts to advance the cause of social justice in the world. He is ardent promoter of North-South cooperation and the founder of the Tri-Continental Centre (CETRI), a non-governmental organization renowned for its work on development issues and in the International Council of the World Social Forum. Known throughout his life as a defender of human rights, he has contributed significantly to the advancement of the inter-faith and inter-cultural dialogue. As a noted sociologist of religions and theology, he has authored numerous publications and given lectures in over 100 universities around the world.

An international petition drive calling upon the Nobel Prize committee to award Houtart the Nobel Peace Prize in 2011 has attracted thousands of signatures from 74 nations. In the midst of this effort, the sister of the abuse victim lodged a complaint with Church officials in Belgium, and the priest admitted the abuse.

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