September 15, 2010
A Belgian bishop has questioned why the Vatican has not taken stronger disciplinary action against a bishop who admitted to sexual abuse.
Bishop Guy Harpigny of Tournai, the chief spokesman for the Belgian hierarchy on sex-abuse issues, asked why Bishop Roger Vangheluwe has been allowed to go into hiding, without answering to the Holy See for his admitted years of abuse. “Vangheluwe has chosen his own punishment and the Vatican does nothing,” Bishop Harpigny complained.
The Belgian prelate expressed the view that Bishop Vangheluwe should be laicized. But in any case the disgraced bishop should be disciplined, he said. “I would prefer a trial by the church authorities. This would be more honest. But any signal would be a good one,” he said.
Bishop Harpigny also conceded that Belgian Church leaders had been slow to admit the sex-abuse problem, because an open discussion of the issue might open the Church to legal claims. “If you officially apologize, then you are acknowledging moral and legal responsibility,” he said. “Then there are people who ask for money and we don’t know what lawyers and the courts will do about that.”
Belgian bishop hits Vatican for not laicizing prelate
Published Date: September 15, 2010
Belgian Bishop Guy Harpigny has criticized the Vatican for failing to laicize admitted abuser Bishop Roger Vangheluwe and said the Church is afraid to give a full apology for the sexual abuse of children by priests as this could open the door to compensation.
“If we say ‘mea culpa’, then we are morally responsible, legally responsible, and then people come wanting money,” Bishop Harpigny of Tournai, the Belgian bishops’ spokesman on abuse issues, told Belgium’s Radio 1, Reuters reports.
“We did not dare. If you officially apologise, then you are acknowledging moral and legal responsibility. Then there are people who ask for money and we don’t know what lawyers and the courts will do about that,” he said.
“We are afraid. Who will ask — the victims, the court or someone else? That’s why we are so careful.”
“I got a lot of calls, including from parliamentary deputies, that said ‘Please, give all the files to the justice authorities’,” Harpigny, who is bishop of Tournai, told La Premiere radio in another interview.
He said he thought the files should be handed over, but that some victims did not want the state involved.
Meanwhile, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi said on Monday that the Pope had no plans for further action after a “quick decision” by the Pontiff “to accept the former bishop’s (Roger Vangheluwe’s) resignation”, the UK Telegraph says.
“Vangheluwe is no longer allowed to say mass in public. At the moment I have no knowledge of other specific measures that will be taken,” said Father Lombardi.
But speaking on Tuesday, Bishop Harpigny called on the Pope to “defrock Vangheluwe”, with or without a full ecclesiastical trail.
“I would prefer a trial by the church authorities. This would be more honest. But any signal would be a good one,” he said.
“Vangheluwe has chosen his own punishment and the Vatican does nothing.”