2 Dec 2010

Belgian bishop says media storm triggered his resignation for sex crimes he committed against boy while bishop

BBC News - April 23, 2010

Belgium's Catholic bishop of Bruges quits over abuse

The bishop of the Belgian city of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, has resigned after admitting sexual abuse of a boy earlier in his career.

Bishop Vangheluwe, 73, said the abuse had happened when he was a simple priest and continued when he started as a bishop, a Vatican statement said.

The Vatican said Pope Benedict XVI had accepted the resignation.

The Catholic Church has come under severe pressure over child sexual abuse allegations emerging across the world.

"When I was not yet a bishop, and some time later, I abused a boy," Bishop Vangheluwe said in a letter that was read out at a press conference in Brussels.

"This has marked the victim forever. The wound does not heal. Neither in me nor the victim."

Bishop Vangheluwe added that he was "enormously sorry" and that he had repeatedly asked for forgiveness. He had been bishop of Bruges since 1984.

'Turning a page'

Belgium's Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard told the press conference in Brussels that the case would be "very saddening to the Belgian Catholic community".

"We are aware of the crisis of confidence that this will engender for a number of people," he said.

But he said the resignation showed that the Belgian Catholic Church wanted to "resolutely turn a page on a very painful" topic.

Bishop Vangheluwe's decision to quit comes after the announcement earlier this month that a German-born former Roman Catholic bishop in Norway, Georg Mueller, had resigned last year after admitting to committing sex abuse.

This week there have been a series of resignations offered or accepted by bishops who were not accused of committing sex abuse.

It was announced on Thursday that the German Bishop of Augsburg, who had been accused of beating children at a Catholic children's home in the 1970s and 1980s, had tendered his resignation.

Bishop Walter Mixa had also been under pressure over allegations of financial irregularities at a children's school under his responsibility.

This week the Pope also accepted the resignation of Bishop James Moriarty of Kildare in Ireland, who said he wanted to play a part in creating a "new beginning" following scandals there.

Bishop Moriarty was one of several Irish bishops to resign after the Church was criticised over its handling of abuse cases.

The Pope promised "action" over abuse against children by priests when he met victims during a visit to Malta last week.

US lawsuit

In Germany, where recent allegations have caused widespread anger, Church representatives were among those participating in a round-table discussion on Friday about widespread abuse in schools and other institutions.

The event, which aims to encourage justice for victims and prevention of future abuse, brought together about 60 people including politicians, lawyers, psychologists and representatives of teachers' organisations.

"Whether it occurs in Church institutions, schools, or in familiar circles, there are conspiracies of silence everywhere," Christine Bergmann, the government commissioner who was chairing the session, was quoted as saying by German broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

Meanwhile, the Vatican on Friday rejected a US lawsuit brought by a man who says he was the victim of the late Father Lawrence Murphy, accused of abuse at a school for deaf children in Milwaukee.

Vatican lawyer Jeffrey Lena said the suit was "completely without merit" and rehashed "old theories already rejected by US courts".

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Catholic News Service - April 23, 2010

Belgian bishop admits abuse; pope accepts resignation

By Cindy Wooden | Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation of a Belgian bishop who admitted to sexually abusing a young man.

Bishop Roger Vangheluwe of Brugge, Belgium, said in a statement April 23, "When I was still a simple priest and for a certain time at the beginning of my episcopacy, I sexually abused a young man."

Pope Benedict accepted the 73-year-old bishop's resignation April 23. Bishop Vangheluwe had led the Diocese of Brugge for more than 25 years.

In his statement, the Belgian bishop said, "Over the course of the last decades, I repeatedly recognized how I sinned against him and his family and I asked forgiveness. But this did not appease him. Nor me.

"The media storm in the last few weeks has reinforced the trauma," the bishop said. "It is no longer possible to continue in this situation."

Bishop Vangheluwe said, "I am deeply sorry for what I did and I offer my sincerest apologies to the victim, to his family, to the whole Catholic community and society in general.

"I offered my resignation as bishop of Brugge to Pope Benedict XVI. It was accepted Friday. Therefore, I have retired," he said.

Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard of Mechelen-Brussels held a press conference April 23 and issued a statement in which he said the church's first concern was for the victim and his "long Calvary," which still has not ended.

The archbishop also said that Bishop Vangheluwe has the same right as anyone else "to conversion, trusting in the mercy of God," even though it is clear that "out of respect for the victim and his family and out of respect for the truth, it is indispensable that he resign" as bishop.

Archbishop Leonard said that in accepting the bishop's resignation immediately, the pope underlined how "in these matters there can be no procrastination."
He said he held the press conference because the Catholic Church in Belgium knows that transparency, "not silence or covering up" the matter, is needed for healing.

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