(Photo: Cardinal Danneels arrives at federal police headquarters in Brussels July 6, 2010 for questions about allegations of sexual abuse by priests/Stringer)
“Why do you feel so sorry for him and not for me?” — Victim of sexual abuse by a Belgian bishop to Cardinal Godfried Danneels.
The transcripts of two meetings between Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels and a man sexually abused by the disgraced former bishop of Bruges make for sad reading indeed. Two Flemish-language newspapers, De Standaard and Het Nieuwsblad, published the texts on Saturday after the victim provided them with his secret recordings of the sessions. My analysis of the case is here.
Apart from the exchanges they reveal, the transcripts are sobering because of the context of the meeting. It took place on April 8, at a time when the series of clerical sexual abuse revelations that began in Ireland the previous year was tearing through Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland and Austria like a tornado. Pope Benedict had issued an unprecedented apology to the Irish for the scandals only shortly before. Church leaders all over were vowing to end the Church’s culture of secrecy and put the victims’ welfare above the defence of the clergy. If there was any time to simply say, “OK, he has to go. We have to report this,” this was it. (Photo: U.S. victims’ group protests at the Vatican, March 25, 2010/Alessandro Bianchi)
It’s a sad end for the career of a leading Catholic cardinal, a grandfatherly man who spent 30 years as primate of the Belgian Church and stepped down last January amid wide popular support (except from conservatives who denounced him as too liberal).