Danneels: My Mistakes

By Austen Ivereigh
America Magazine
September 8, 2010

Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, whose attempts to mediate in a family dispute over one of his bishops who had abused his nephew ended in disaster, was the subject of three previous posts (here, here and here) which I rather agonised over, caught up, as I was, in the human drama of it all.

The Cardinal has now given an extensive interview to some French-language Belgian newspapers including La Libre Belgique, which is running the first part on its website. The burden of it, according to Reuters, is that he admits to a serious misjudgement in not urging Bishop Roger Vangheluwe to resign; that he committed a serious misjudgement in allowing himself to being bounced into a meeting whose purpose was not clear; and that he never intended to suggest that the issue should not be made public.

Looking at the Libre Belgique interview transcript, it is clear that he is bewildered by the fact that the family have kept the abuse quiet for 25 years, and that they were strongly divided over whether it should be made public. It is this, he says, which concerned him most, pastorally speaking, and which accounts for his midjudgements. He says (my trans):

Going back to my contact with the family, I wanted to help them on a pastoral level; that is something that is important to me. I was more worried about the divisions in the heart of the family, and I dared to hope that they could reach a reconciliation. That is why I spoke of forgiveness. But I made a mistake in showing them my good heart. I should have immediately invited Bishop Vangheluwe to resign, rather than trying to reconcile the family. In any case, it was my intention to propose that route if the discord continued within the family.

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