Cardinal urged Catholic sex abuse victim to keep quiet, new tapes reveal
A conversation published this weekend by Belgian media provides a rare glimpse into a transaction between church officials and victims involved in Catholic sex abuse scandals.
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The bishop’s resignation, which came two weeks after the April 8 meeting and two days after Pope Benedict XVI vowed action on sexual abuse of children by priests, followed weeks of a Vatican campaign to downplay the Catholic sex abuse scandal and to attack news organizations for exaggerating pedophilia claims. Pope Benedict later asked forgiveness for the church.Skip to next paragraph
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In an April 19 address to a Belgian college, Vangheluwe stated, "I think you need to be well informed about these things... Yes it [pedophilia] is embarrassing... but there have been articles implying that pedophilia is nowhere so little prevalent than in the church," he said, according to a report in De Standaard.
In an April 21 edition of Church and Life, a Flemish Catholic monthly, the bishop writes that "everywhere there are stories of priests abusing children. It is horrible to see these things surface and they hurt us deeply. This shouldn't blind us from the fact that the majority of priests lead exemplary lives."
Why nephew released tapes
Media outlets in Belgium and Luxembourg, citing church sources, have reported that the victim has received monetary compensation for years from the bishop; the victim has said he released the tapes to show that he hadn’t attempted to blackmail his uncle.
The New York Times reported this summer that the victim's family was angered that Danneels, rather than the new archbishop of Brussels, Andre-Joseph Leonard, met in April to discuss the case.
The Times also reported that a retired Belgian priest, Rev. Rik Deville, said he had earlier tried to make the the victim’s case known to church authorities, but was “berated for doing so.”
The bishop’s resignation and admission set off a chain of events in Belgium that led to hundreds of people coming forward to report abuse to an official commission. It was also followed by Belgian police raids on a bishops meeting and on Danneels' home.
The Belgian daily Le Soir reported in August that a significant number of Catholics in the country have asked to be taken off census rolls that identify them as Catholics when they are baptized as infants. Similar reports have come from Ireland and Austria, countries where priestly abuse of children has also been widely discovered. Most of the reported cases took place in the 1970s through the 1990s.