Belgian bishop admits abuse, resigns
On this side of the Atlantic we don't go for headlines with commas in them -- an American newsroom custom which we've resisted. The obvious headline was: "Belgian bishop resigns over abuse".
But you would have thought, wouldn't you, that meant a bishop resigning for failing to handle properly the case of an abusive priest?
But in this case, that of 73-year-old Roger Vangheluwe, the Bishop of Bruges for more than 25 years, it is the bishop himself who abused. He has confessed it, and resigned, leaving everyone around him reeling.
In a statement read out today at a press conference in Brussels by Archbishop Andre-Joseph Léonard, Bishop Vangheluwe said that the abuse had occurred “when I was still a simple priest and for a while when I began as a bishop", adding: “This has marked the victim forever".
The bishop said he had on several occasions asked the victim and his family to forgive him but the wound had not healed, “neither in me nor the victim.”
The media storm in recent weeks had deepened the trauma, he said. "I profoundly regret what I have done and I present my sincerest apology to the victim, his family, the Catholic community and society in general."
According to Reuters, "the bishop stepped down after a person close to the victim complained to the Church." There are about 20 cases currently being looked into by a commission set up by the Church in 2000.
Archbishop Léonard did not try to put distance. He described Bishop Vangheluwe as a "great brother and dynamic bishop" who was highly rated within the Belgian Church.
“We are aware of the crisis of confidence his resignation will set in motion,” he said, going on to stress that the Catholic Church in Belgium was determined to “turn over a leaf from a not very distant past when such matters would pass in silence or be covered up.”
The diocese of Bruges seems equally shocked. Says one report: "His entourage is surprised, shocked and devastated because they did not have the slightest indication that the bishop was bowed down with a serious problem. The diocese stays behind, as if beheaded. The staff members of the bishop have taken note of the decision and they respect it. They feel for those who have suffered."