Belgian, Irish bishops step down

Roger Vangheluwe, right, the bishop of Bruges, with Pope John Paul II in Ypres in 1985. Via the NY Times.

Via the NY Times:

The longest-serving bishop in Belgium resigned Friday after admitting to sexually abusing “a young man in my close entourage” many years ago, becoming the latest cleric to quit in a spreading abuse scandal.  The development dealt a new blow to the Roman Catholic Church, and marked a new entry in a corrosive catalog of disclosures that has damaged its credibility and shaken the trust of many believers in their spiritual leaders.In a statement issued by the Vatican on Friday, Roger Vangheluwe, 73, the bishop of Bruges since 1984, said that the abuse had occurred “when I was still a simple priest and for a while when I began as a bishop.”

“This has marked the victim forever,” he said. The bishop said that on several occasions he had asked the victim and his family to forgive him, but the wound had not healed, “neither in me nor the victim.” A media storm in recent weeks had merely deepened the trauma, he said.

“I am profoundly sorry,” he said. Earlier this week, in a rare public comment directly addressing the issue, Pope Benedict XVI promised that the church would take action to deal with the crisis.

A more recent picture of Vangheluwe.

The resignation came 10 years after the church in Belgium set up a commission to look into complaints of abuse that frequently seemed at loggerheads with the church leadership.

Archbishop Léonard acknowledged in an Easter homily this year that as the Vatican leadership confronted persistent accusations of abuse, “the reputation of church leaders was given a higher priority than that of abused children,” The Associated Press reported.


On the same day [of Vangheluwe’s resignation], the Vatican said the pope had accepted the resignation of Bishop James Moriarty of Kildare and Leighlin, Ireland. Bishop Moriarty had been cited in an Irish government report on the mishandling and concealment of cases of priestly abuse.


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