FaithWorld

Belgium urges Vatican to impose harsh punishment on sex abuse bishop

April 15, 2011
(Belgium's Justice Minister Stefaan De Clerck addresses the Justice Committee hearing on child sexual abuse in the Belgian Catholic Church, at the Belgian Parliament in Brussels September 17, 2010. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir )

(Justice Minister Stefaan De Clerck addresses the Justice Committee hearing on child sexual abuse in the Belgian Catholic Church, September 17, 2010/Francois Lenoir )

Belgium’s justice minister urged the Vatican on Friday to impose stiff punishment on a disgraced Catholic bishop who denies being a paedophile despite admitting to sexually abusing two of his own nephews. Stefaan de Clerck spoke out amid a media uproar after former Bruges Bishop Roger Vangheluwe defended himself on television by saying the abuse he committed was only “superficial.”

Vangheluwe, who quit his post and went into hiding a year ago after admitting to molesting a nephew, confessed in the interview on Thursday evening that he had molested a second one. He left Belgium last week under Vatican orders to seek “spiritual and psychological treatment” abroad and Belgian media say he is now in a French monastery. The Vatican has said the final decision on disciplining him lies with Pope Benedict.

“The Church must take up this case and see what sanction it should impose. It should be much more severe and much more complete than what has been said up until now,” De Clerck, a Christian Democrat, told RTL radio. “We expect the Church to punish him,” he said. “They told him to leave the country — that was also to shut him up. Making comments trying to minimise what happened is unacceptable.”

The Vatican has been reluctant to impose stiff punishments on bishops found guilty of covering up sexual abuse of youths by priests under their authority. Three bishops in Ireland and one in Germany have resigned but others accused of mismanagement have held onto their jobs.

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In my research on worldwide priest sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church, I have to wonder why civil authorities are deferring to the Pope and to the Vatican in regard to the penalties dictated by civil law, for those who sexually abuse others, especially innocent children, and in this case, even a Catholic bishop sexually abusing two of his own nephews!

Here the Justice Minister in Belgium, seems to be deferring to the Pope. It shows me the power and control that the Roman Catholic Church has over Belgium people, even at the highest levels of government.

I am a Catholic physician. I have met many who have been abused by priests, and have had their childhoods robbed from them by so-called men of God, in the States and around the world.

All roads lead to Rome and to the Pope and hierarchy for the mess that we are in. There has been a tremendous abuse of moral authority by the RCC.

The focus must be on the needs of the victim/survivors and to protect others from being abused. Here in the States, the recent finding that there were many priests with credible accusations of abuse against them, still active in parishes, has shown us that the RCC cannot be allowed to police itself. Some leaders of the RCC only give the lay commissions the information that they want to give, and hide the rest.

It is interesting that this bishop does not seem to have guilt for sexually abusing one of his nephews for 13 years. I understand that the nephew has been emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually damaged by what his uncle has done to him.

This month, Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin, Ireland spoke at Marquette Law School in Milwaukee, Wisconsin at a conference, on the need for restorative justice to the victim/survivors of priest sexual abuse. Archbishop Martin is the only member of the hierarchy that I know of, who has had the courage to stand with the survivors in trying to put an end to priest sex abuse in the Roman Catholic Church.

Archbishop Martin said that, in his experience of talking with the priest abusers, there seem to be no feelings of guilt in nearly every case. In general, the priest abusers show a sense of entitlement and have two major characteristics: narcissism and
grandiosity. Archbishop Martin found that many seminarians were more interested in the power and status of becoming a priest, rather than to serve.

I think the structure of the RCC needs to change from the top-down model of Imperial Rome, to a model of servant leadership, which Jesus tried to show us.

Everyone’s voice needs to be heard. The RCC needs to be in the 21st century and not in the Middle Ages. Also, I must say that women are not the enemy. The RCC needs to be more balanced and end mandatory celibacy. Right now, priests have little sense of what it is to live a normal life. They train in and live in a same-sex environment,
and most do not experience marriage and the responsibility of raising their own children, which would have the effect of helping them to mature more.

It will be interesting to see if Pope Benedict XVI will excommunicate this bishop, and if the Belgium government will take steps to be sure that this bishop cannot abuse any others.

Sincerely, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, Chicago, IL, mchughrosemary@gmail.com

Posted by Physician | Report as abusive
 

Dear Dr McHugh,
Many thanks for your very pertinent comments. Just to make one thing clear — the Belgian authorities are asking the Church to punish Vangheluwe because his abuse cases are all beyond the statute of limitations so the state has no way of punishing him. The Bruges prosecutor has examined this and said he could find no abuse charges against him that could still be prosecuted. There have also been calls in Belgium for the government to deprive Vangheluwe of his state pension (2,800 euros a month, even if he is defrocked), but officials have said that would not be legal either. Several senior politicians have expressed their frustration at having to stand on the sidelines unable to do anything and having to watch as Rome takes its time over deciding any punishment. Just yesterday, the Belgian justice minister urged the Vatican to impose a severe punishment on the bishop. My impression from his statement and media interviews was that, if he could do it himself, he would.

 

In regard to the case by two German lawyers against the Pope, as a German citizen, for complicity in cases of priest sex abuse worldwide, I have just learned that the prosecutor might be biased toward protecting the Roman Catholic Church and Pope Benedict XVI.

From what I have just read, The Hague Prosecutor, Dr Luis Moreno Ocampo, has defended a priest accused of sexual abuse in the past. This prosecutor is likely to be a Roman Catholic.

I do not think that a Roman Catholic lawyer should be prosecuting a case against the Pope, who is the head of the Roman Catholic Church.

Are there any non-Catholic prosecutors at The Hague who could prosecute the case against the Pope? I do not think that the judgment of a lawyer, who has defended a priest for sexual abuse in the past, will be seen as unbiased by people around the world, in the case against the Pope.

Sincerely, Dr Rosemary Eileen McHugh, Chicago, IL.

Posted by Physician | Report as abusive
 

This statement that a Catholic cannot prosecute a case against the pope is religious bigotry pure and simple.

As Dr. Mc Hugh–a professional blogger of hate against the church can attest–Catholics can be fair minded about their church even hate their own church as she clearly does.

Can you imagine saying that blacks cannot be seated on juries in which black criminal defendants are charged? But here since her bigotry is directed against the Catholic church it is tolerated as anti-Catholicism is the bigotry of the left intelligentsia.

Posted by Ekua | Report as abusive
 

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