Belgian Cardinal Danneels admits making mistakes in sex abuse case
The former head of Belgium’s Roman Catholic Church, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, has admitted he made mistakes in dealing with a case of sexual abuse and should have demanded the resignation of the bishop involved.
In interviews published in the newspapers Het Laatste Nieuws and La Libre Belgique and the weekly magazine Knack on Wednesday, he described his failure to urge former Bruges Bishop Roger Vangheluwe to go as his “most serious error of judgement.”
(Photo: Danneels at news conference on January 18, 2010/Timothy Seren)
Vangheluwe resigned at the end of April after admitting he had sexually abused a nephew, the first such known case of high-level abuse in the Catholic church in Belgium. However, Danneels suggested to the victim during a meeting earlier in April that it would be better to keep quiet, with the bishop due to retire in 2011, according to transcripts of the meeting published last month.
Danneels said in Wednesday’s interview that he had tried to establish why the family had kept quiet for almost 25 years and had never been to the police, and he denied mentioning the bishop’s impending retirement to influence the relatives.
“I never wanted to suggest that it should not be made public,” Danneels said. “Up until today I have the feeling that I had stepped into a trap. Call it naivete. You can make all sorts of assumptions about the intentions of Roger Vangheluwe. But the error of assessment was mine.”