Belgium Church Abuse Detailed by Adriaenssens Report

BBC News
September 10, 2010

Most Belgians are Catholics

Harrowing details of some 300 cases of alleged sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy in Belgium have been released by a Church investigator.

Peter Adriaenssens said cases of abuse, mostly involving minors, had been found in nearly every diocese, and 13 alleged victims had committed suicide.

Two-thirds of victims were boys, most of them aged below 15, but 100 girls also suffered assaults, he said.

No evidence of a systematic Church cover-up was found, he added.

Bishops had changed their views since working with the commission and had not seemed to realise the implications of their past decisions, the investigator said.

Belgium has been shaken by revelations of abuse this year.

In April, the Bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, resigned and admitted to having sexually abused a boy before and after becoming a bishop.

Mr Adriaenssens was speaking 10 weeks after his commission's files were seized by police investigating sexual abuse by clergy.

He shut down the commission at the time, accusing prosecutors of having used it as "bait".

An appeals court ruled on Thursday that the police raids had been illegal and documents seized could not be used by prosecutors.

The Catholic Church in Belgium is due to announce on Monday how the commission's investigations may be continued.

'Abused aged two'

The commission was never able to finish its enquiries but even so its findings make grim reading, the BBC's Jonty Bloom reports from Brussels.

It reveals that abuse was at its worst in the 1960s when it was so extensive that it was going on in almost every diocese and at every Church-run boarding school.

Assaults on boys usually ended by their 15th year but abuse of girls could continue into adulthood, the report finds.

People, Mr Adriaenssens said, should realise that the sexual abuse was "very bad", which was why victims were still suffering decades later.

One alleged victim told the commission of being abused at the age of two.

A female victim testified that she had been abused at the age of 17 by a priest and had tried to seek help from a bishop in 1983.

"I told him 'I have a problem with one of your priests.' He told me: 'Ignore him and he will leave you alone'," she said.

In addition to those who killed themselves, six alleged victims attempted suicide.

No charges

The commission found that the level of abuse had declined in the 1980s, perhaps because by then there were fewer priests and they were less involved in the education system, our correspondent says.

Half of those accused are now dead, the commission said.

The commission also stressed that sexual abuse happened within all religions and organisations.

It recommended punishing abusers who did not come forward and setting up a solidarity fund for victims, to which abusers should contribute.

Victims, the commission concluded, deserved "a courageous Church which is not afraid to confront its vulnerability, to recognise it, to co-operate in finding fair responses".

Prosecutors have yet to bring any charges in their abuse investigation and Thursday's court verdict is being seen as a serious blow to their work.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.