A Belgian Roman Catholic bishop who resigned in disgrace after admitting to sexually abusing his nephew has left the country for “spiritual and psychological treatment” abroad, a Vatican ambassador has said. Former Bruges Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, 74, went into hiding after shocking the Belgian Church with his public confession in April 2010. He first stayed at a Belgian monastery but later left it, and his exact whereabouts were not made public.
Archbishop Giacinto Berloco, the papal nuncio or ambassador to Belgium, said in a statement the Vatican’s doctrinal department had investigated his case and decided he needed to go abroad for treatment. He did not say where the bishop went. “Bishop Vangheluwe, who since his resignation has lived in different places without a fixed address, has already left Belgium to submit to this decision,” he said in the statement on Saturday.
Vangheluwe was the most senior Catholic cleric to admit to molesting a child amid all the sexual abuse cases exposed in Europe over the past two years. Other bishops who have resigned in Ireland were accused of covering up abuse cases.
Berloco spoke out after the Belgian daily Het Laatste Nieuws reported Vangheluwe had taken refuge in the Vatican embassy, a step that would shield him from Belgian justice authorities. He said the Vatican’s powerful Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith had decided that “even if the statute of limitations for the sexual abuse of his nephew had lapsed under canon law, Bishop Vangheluwe should leave Belgium and undertake a period of spiritual and psychological treatment.”