(Photo: Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels at a parliamentary committee hearing on child sexual abuse in the Belgian Catholic Church, in Brussels December 21, 2010./Francois Lenoir)
Belgium’s former top Roman Catholic bishop told a parliamentary inquiry on Tuesday into the sexual abuse of children by clerics that he was not responsible for other Belgian bishops.
Belgium’s lower house set up the inquiry to examine an issue that has rocked the Catholic Church worldwide and resulted in hundreds of victims coming forward. Widespread sexual abuse of minors by Belgian clerics drove at least 13 victims to suicide, a Church commission said in September, recording 475 cases.
Tape recordings released in Belgium this summer made it clear that Cardinal Godfried Danneels, who until January was archbishop of Brussels and head of the Belgian bishops’ conference, was aware of abuse by Bruges Bishop Roger Vangheluwe but had discouraged immediate public statements by the victim.
“I cannot give orders to other bishops. I have no legal authority over other bishoprics and I think that is at the base of a lot of the problems that have been mentioned here,” Danneels told the inquiry on Tuesday. He denied any effort to hush up cases of abuse.
Some MPs were disappointed with his four-hour testimony. “Cardinal Danneels missed an opportunity to improve his image,” said Green deputy Stefaan Van Hecke.