Father Eric

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[Note from Sylvia:  This is an unofficial translation from Flemish to English of an article in the Belgian publication De Morgen.  The original articles will be  attached] 

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 (article by Matthias Declercq and Douglas De Coninck, published in De Morgen (Belgian newspaper) on May 8th 2010). 

  • Raped Eskimo children in Canada
  • His order paid € 380 000 in damages
  • he was sentenced to prison in Canada but fled to Belgium
  • Interpol were looking for him, but his brethren hid him
  • He was appointed shortly as confessor in Lourdes (place of pilgrimage in France) 

An international search warrant spread by Interpol on May 3rd 2001 told us to look out for Dejaeger Eric, born on April 24th 1947 in ‘Roeselaar, Belgium’. The wanted man is 1,73 meters tall, weighs 87 kilos and wears glasses. He is wanted for ‘rape of minor, sex crimes’.  He is wanted by the justice of the Canadian Igloolik and is further described  as ‘Person may be dangerous’. The most remarkable feature about the man is, alas, not mentioned by Interpol. The suspect may be wearing a monk’s habit.

 At the very moment of Interpol’s appeal, Eric Dejaeger is in Lourdes, where he is responsible for receiving the pilgrims from Flanders. During the off season for pilgrimage, the father stays in the abbey of the Oblates in Waregem (Belgium). His secret hiding place.

Eric Dejaeger , in his twenties, left for Canada in 1973. He was ordained a priest in 1978 by the local Oblates, and left for the island of Igloolik, in the far notrh. He mission was to convert the Inuit popultation, Eskomo’s, to christianity.

Father Eric seems to have a preference for the youngest Eskimo’s. On April 5th 1990 he is, for the first time, convicted to a sentence of five years for eight-fold rape of children. He remains in prison for a short while. At the end of 1990 there are 5 new charges. On June 14th 1991 he is sentenced to an additional one year of imprisonment and on June 26th 1993 he is summoned by the court for a new series of sexual offences against Eskimo’ children.  In June 1995 it seems improbable that he will escape  a very long detention. The Canadian justice qualifies him as an incorrigible recidivist and summons him in court. Father Eric stands them up.

Interpol received no reaction to their search warrant. Nobody knows where Father Eric is, until the case is brought to the attention of the Interdiocesan Committee for Sexual Abuse (ICSA) in 2001. There is a new complaint about Father Eric, this time from a young  Flemish woman who went on a pilgrimage to … Lourdes. But how does a paedofile priest , wanted by Interpol, end up in Lourdes? Simple, Father Eric fled Canada in 1995, asked and received shelter by the Oblates in  Waregem.

The ICSA writes to the Flemish Oblates who, at first, persist in claiming they did not know anything about the Canadian charges against their brother. But when, little by little, documents of their mutual correspondence start to surface, it becomes obvious that the brethren have their own interpretation of the command “thou shallt not lie”.

The letter, for example, of the abbot in Canada, dated July 5th 1995, a few days after his flight: “Dear Eric,the RCMP (Canadian police) called me this morning. There is a search warrant out for you. This means that if you were to come to Canada, you would be arrested upon arrival. They asked me where you were and I told them you were in Belgium, but that I did not know where.”

 The letter was sent to the Oblate Order, Processiestraat 1, Waregem, Belgium. The abbot knew exactly where Father Eric was hiding.

 On April 18th 2001, the ICSA president Halsberghe writes to Mark Kemseke,  provincial at the Ordre of the Oblates and the actual number one of the Ordre in Belgium. She explaines that she had found out that the wanted paedofile had been given a job as a “Flemish coordinator in Lourdes, where he received  young pilgrims, children and other pilgrims”. She suggests to organize a meeting with his superiors of the Oblate Ordre.

 On June 29th 2001, Father Kemseke replies that Father Eric has served his sentence in Canada (a lie) and that he is convinced that “the danger has disappeared”. The Father had been healed from his appetite in little Eskimo’s thru prayer and therapy? Furthermore, Kemseke writes, the Oblates in Canada have paid damages for a total of five hundred thousand Canadian dollar to the parents of the victims.

 Mid 2001 new elements arise. New charges are brought against Dejaegere in Canada. His personal file reveals that the Oblates had been, at least since 1999, informed of his reason to flee. A new letter of the ICSA chairman follows on August 30th 2001: “The Oblates in Canada informed their brethren in Belgium about the situation in Canada. And yet Father Dejaegere is sent to Lourdes as a confessor! (…) I shudder at the thought that this story should be made public in all its components to the public! The only thing that can be done is that Father Dejaegere contacts Interpol himself. In case he refuses, this task should be fulfilled by his superiors.”

 On February 26th 2002 Father Kemseke replies.  During the seventies Father Eric acquired the Canadian nationality. “As far as I know, the Belgian law does not demand someone to denounce oneselve voluntarily.  (…)  You, nor anyone else, can assure  that he will not harm anyone  anymore, unless he is sent to prison for always. And still. You must know that few people come  out of prison as a better person.”

 To make a long story short: the Oblates do not have the intention to tell on their brother. From February 27th 2002 (after  these revelations) onwards he is forbidden to perform pastoral tasks. Father Kemseke adds that  Father Eric has been punished severely by the One in heaven. A quote from the letter: “He’s being punished by the prohibition to perform pastoral tasks. As a priest he is being forced to being idle in the best years of his life (…). Furthermore he is literally a broken man. He is being treated for two broken vertebra. The first treatment did not help, on the contrary.  Even taking a pen to write may cause unbearable pains (…) We have accepted him amongst ourselves. He is and stays Oblate and person, with a right to respect, despite his mistakes.” 

At the end of his letter the Provincial adds this: “… you do not have the right to make this affair public, because it would harm the church and cause injustice to the Oblates”.

On January 15th and 16th there was en exhibition in hall De Kiem in Roeselare (note:birthplace of Dejaegere as well as our famous bishop Vangheluwe) called “Friends of Lourdes. There were pictures, posters, and, according to the programm: “A coverage of the walking-trip of Father Eric Dejaegere from Waregem to Compostella”. That is almost 2000 kilometers of walking. We verified. This is the same Father Eric with the two broken vertebra.

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