Child abuse was widespread in Belgian Catholic Church – Church report
Child sexual abuse was widespread in the Belgian Catholic Church and drove at least 13 victims to suicide, according to a report published on Friday. “Almost every institution, every school, particularly boarding schools, at one time harboured abuse,” Peter Adriaenssens, the head of a Church commission monitoring complaints, told a news conference.
(Photo: Peter Adriaenssens, July 6, 2010/Yves Herman)
More than half of its 200-page report, based on cases recorded up till then, consists of excerpts of testimony from victims. The 475 cases it recorded included victims as young as two. Two-thirds were male and boys aged about 12 were particularly vulnerable. In most cases, abuse tailed off when victims reached 15 or 16.
Adriaenssens said: “With these testimonies, it was not about superficial handling. It was about oral and anal abuse, forced and mutual masturbation. In other words, it was about people who had experienced serious acts.”
He said the commission found no evidence that the Church had systematically sought to cover up abuse, although it had found instances when nothing was done. The peak of abuse appeared to have been in the 1960s, the report concluded, with a sharp drop in the 1980s.
The full Flemish-language report and other material from the commission are posted here. The commission is still working on a French translation that should appear on this website. For a long report in French, see Belgian television RTBF.
On Thursday, a Belgian court ruled that police raids conducted as part of a judicial inquiry into allegations of child abuse by Belgian priests were illegal, throwing the full investigation into doubt.