Belgian Cardinal Says He Should've Asked Bishop to Resign

September 8, 2010

The former head of the Belgian Catholic Church on Tuesday admitted he should have asked for the immediate resignation of a bishop who had confessed to the sexual abuse of a minor.

Instead, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, who headed the church between 1979-2009, tried to mediate between the former bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, and his victim, according to a taped conversation between the cardinal and the victim of the abuse that became public.

"Because I suspected there were dissensions within the family (of the bishop) I thought a pastoral approach was appropriate," Danneels said in an interview to several Belgian media.

"I now realise I should've immediately encouraged Vangheluwe to resign," he said.

Danneels in April took part in a meeting between the 73-year-old and several members of his family, during which Vangheluwe recognised sexually abusing his nephew for 13 years, while he was a minor.

The cardinal had asked the victim to accept an apology from Vangheluwe, or at least not make his allegations public until the bishop retired a year later.

Vangheluwe resigned two weeks later.

Belgium is one of the countries worst hit by a rising tide of revelations of paedophilia by Roman Catholic priests in Europe and North America.

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