Saturday, April 24, 2010

Ex-priest says he reported Belgian bishop abuse

Last updated April 24, 2010 7:54 a.m. PT

Ex-priest says he reported Belgian bishop abuse
By RAF CASERT AND ALESSANDRA RIZZO
ASSOCIATED PRESS WRITERS

BRUSSELS -- A retired priest said Saturday that he told church authorities years ago about allegations that Belgium's longest-serving bishop had abused a boy but he was stonewalled until the bishop was forced to resign.

Retired priest Rik Deville told The Associated Press that he made the allegations to Archbishop Godfried Danneels between 15 and 17 years ago after learning of them from a confidant of the victim's family. Danneels said through a spokesman that he had no recollections of Deville's allegations at the time.

Bruges Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, 73, resigned Friday and expressed sorrow for having sexually abused the boy.

Norbert Bethune, who was dismissed after a doctrinal conflict with superiors, told the AP that he had brought allegations by some 30 other victims of other clerical abuse to the attention of Danneels and "he was so angry was us, so negative that he did not want to hear anything." Bethune said reports in the Belgian media that he also reported allegations of abuse by Vangheluwe to Danneels were inaccurate.

The Vatican is moving to get rid of bishops tainted by the scandal - either those directly responsible of abusing children or ones who had sought to shield abusive priests. A Vatican spokesman said Saturday that the Catholic Church is capable of healing the wounds inflicted on it by the scandal.

The Rev. Federico Lombardi said a recent meeting between Pope Benedict XVI and abuse victims in Malta brought the victims new hope. He said the meeting had been held in the context of a living, dynamic church that is "capable of recognizing its wounds sincerely but also of obtaining the grace of healing."

"We needed this message," Lombardi told Vatican Radio.

In recent days Benedict also accepted the resignation of an Irish bishop who acknowledged failing to report abuse to police.

Two more Irish bishops have offered to resign and the pope is expected to agree. There are also mounting calls for the country's top prelate, Cardinal Sean Brady, to leave because of his handling of the case of a notorious child rapist.

"The time has come for truth, transparency and credibility," Lombardi said in separate comments reported by the ANSA news agency. "The situation we are going through is extremely demanding and it requires us to be absolutely truthful and credible."

Lombardi, who was speaking at a meeting organized by the Italian Bishops' Conference, also called for "rigor and the refusal of any hypocrisy," according to ANSA.

Hundreds of people have reported cases of abuse by priests at schools, orphanages and other church-run institutions. Victims say bishops and other church higher-ups covered up the crimes, choosing to protect the church rather than children.

The scandal has swept across Europe, including in Benedict's native Germany, and elsewhere.

This week, the Vatican has said it would do everything in its power to bring justice to abusive priests and implement "effective measures" to protect children.

Benedict himself recounted his tearful meeting with Maltese victims, and promised action to confront the scandal. Neither Benedict nor the Vatican has elaborated on what action or measures are being considered.

The Vatican recently published guidelines instructing bishops to report abuse to police when civil laws require it. The Vatican insists that has long been church policy, though it was never before explicitly written.

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