Belgian Catholic Church probe finds 475 abuse cases
BRUSSELS — A Belgian Catholic Church-backed commission Friday published a report revealing hundreds of cases of alleged sexual abuse of minors by clergy and church workers, and 13 suicides by abuse victims.
The commission said it had received 475 complaints in the first six months of this year from alleged victims or their families.
Most were related to charges of sexual abuse committed between the 1950s and the late 1980s by Catholic clergy, but also by teachers of religion and adults working with youth movements.
It noted that one fact in particular showed "the extent of the negative effects: the high number of suicides," the report said.
The commission received 13 reports in which "the person concerned died by suicide and this in relation to sexual abuse by a cleric," it said, adding that another six victims said they had attempted suicide.
The 200-page report which contains testimonies from some 124 anonymous "survivors" -- as the victims of the alleged abuse are called -- reveal that the sexual abuse for most victims began at age 12, although one was two years old, five were aged four, eight aged five and ten aged seven, the report said.
While the description of the alleged sex abuser is often imprecise, where verification had been made 102 were found to have been members of some 29 religious orders, the report said.
"We can say that no congregation escapes sexual abuse of minors by one or several of its members," the report's authors wrote.
Two-thirds of the alleged victims were male, it also noted.
The commission headed by a psychiatric specialist in paedophilia, Peter Adriaenssens, said it received most of its testimony after the forced resignation in April of the bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, who admitted having sexually abused his nephew between 1973 and 1986.
A woman in the report testified that she was abused at age 17 by a priest and tried to seek help from a bishop in 1983.
"I told him 'I have a problem with one of your priests'. He told me: 'Ignore him and he will leave you alone'," she said.
The commission concluded that the victims deserve "a courageous Church which is not afraid to confront its vulnerability, to recognise it, to cooperate in finding fair responses."
The commission members resigned en masse in June after their files were seized in raids by Belgian judicial authorities.
Judges subsequently struck off from admissible evidence the fruits of that search in June at the offices of the church commission.
On Thursday a Belgian appeals court deemed raids on the church headquarters in Brussels and at the home of its former top cardinal disproportionate, and ordered that the material seized be returned with prosecutors unable to use it.
The country's current archbishop, Andre-Joseph Leonard, said after the decision was made public that "it is in everyone's interests that the fundamental rules of law are respected."
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Pharyngula - September 11, 2010
Ah, but it's only a few bad apples
by PZ Meyers
That's the usual excuse we here from defenders of Catholicism — that the accusations of pedophilia and sexual abuse are only the work of a tiny minority of rotten people. I can accept that it's a small minority that are the actual perpetrators, but the culture of the church protects its own…and the privileged, special, precious people aren't the congregation, it's the priesthood.
Belgium has plumbed the depths of its own local apple barrel, and made a horrifying discovery.
"We can say that no congregation escapes sexual abuse of minors by one or several of its members," the commission concluded.
The 200-page report, published on Friday, contains testimonies from some 124 anonymous victims, revealing that abuse for most began at the age of 12.
It noted a "high number of suicides" with 13 deaths and six attempts attributed to "sexual abuse by a cleric".
Every congregation has a horror story about an abusive priest. That says something. This isn't about a rare event — it's about a common risk associated with growing up Catholic in Belgium.
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The Guardian - U.K. September 10, 2010
Belgian child abuse report exposes Catholic clergy
Paedophilia expert unveils harrowing testimony and documents cases in almost every diocese
Ian Traynor in Brussels
Some of the most damning evidence of systematic child abuse by the Roman Catholic clergy to come to light was unveiled today by Belgium's leading authority on paedophilia, who published hundreds of pages of harrowing victim testimony detailing their traumas and suffering.
The explosive report by Peter Adriaenssens in the town of Louvain, east of Brussels, lists evidence of 476 instances of child abuse by priests and bishops going back 50 years.
Adriaenssens was appointed by the church last year to head an independent inquiry into the scandal. Since April, when Roger Vangheluwe, the bishop of Bruges, resigned after admitting persistently molesting a nephew, the Adriaenssens commission has been inundated with evidence, with hundreds of victims coming forward.
He has since documented cases of abuse occurring in almost every diocese in the country and in virtually every school run by the church. "We can say that no part of the country escapes sexual abuse of minors by one or several [church] members," said Adriaenssens.
"This is the church's Dutroux dossier," he added in reference to the notorious Belgian paedophile serial killer, Marc Dutroux, who kidnapped, tortured, abused and murdered six girls in 1995-6.
Speaking of the victims, Adriaenssens said that 13 had killed themselves, according to relatives, and another six had attempted suicide.
The 200-page report includes copious anonymous testimony from 124 of the victims "to honour their courage" in coming forward.
"There are days when I thank God for having the chance to speak," testified one woman.
"Four years of psychotherapy have taught me that silence kills. I have had enormous depressions, going as far as attempted suicide. At other times I think it would be wise to let sleeping dogs lie. But in the end I've chosen to speak ... Since the resignation of the bishop of Bruges, I am living again in anxiety and fear. And I am far away. I've chosen to live far from my country, hoping that the past won't rejoin me."
This testimony was from a woman abused in the 1980s, but most of the cases concerned young boys and teenagers, as well a documented case of a two-year-old boy being molested.
Another victim told of being repeatedly sexually molested by his parish priest for five years from the age of seven.
"From being a violated child, I myself became, several years later, an abuser of adolescents and was sentenced to eight years in jail of which I served four and a half … The priest's violations certainly strongly shaped my sexual identity and influenced my life choices."
The evidence presented, said the daily newspaper Le Soir, was of "immense persistent suffering which neither the church, justice, nor society have been able to assuage … Adriaenssens has done what everyone else declined to do – listen to the victims, understand them, and give them the place they deserve."
The abuse went back to the 1950s, was most common in the 60s and was tailing off by the 1980s, Adriaenssens said.
"The exposed cases are old, of course," he said. "Society has developed. But there's nothing to indicate that the number of paedophiles has diminished. Where are they today?"
Most of the victims were now middle-aged, but remained traumatised. Around half of the abusers had died.
The expert unveiled his report today because yesterday a Belgian court ruled that the material, seized by police in a highly controversial raid in June, was inadmissible in court because of the "disproportionate" police action and ordered it returned.
Pope Benedict criticised the Belgian authorities for "deplorable" conduct when in June they seized the commission's files, raided the headquarters of the Belgian Catholic church, held cardinals and bishops for several hours, took their mobile phones, and carried away computers and documents.
They questioned Cardinal Godfried Danneels, who retired as head of the Belgian church and archbishop of Brussels in January.
Two weeks ago Belgian newspapers published tape recordings of Danneels seeking to hush up the case of Vangheluwe, the Bruges bishop. [see link to article above]
Vangheluwe's nephew secretly recorded Danneels pressing him to keep quiet about his uncle at least until he retired next year.
"I don't think you'd do yourself or him a favour by shouting this from the rooftops," the cardinal warned the victim, who replied angrily that his uncle had abused him for 13 years from the age of five.
The recordings were made in April and the bishop resigned two weeks later, the most senior clergyman in the Catholic church to have quit after being exposed for child abuse.
This article was found at:
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Belgian police raid Catholic headquarters and independent abuse commission over concerns of continuing cover-up by church leaders
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