|"No Belgian Church Escaped Sex Abuse', Finds Investigation
By Bruno Waterfield
September 10, 2010
Child sex abuse by clergy or church workers has taken place in every Roman Catholic congregation in Belgium, according to an independent commission investigating paedophilia allegations.
Investigators, working with the support of the Belgian Catholic Church received 475 complaints of child abuse committed in the 1950s through to the late 1980s by Catholic clergy.
"We can say that no congregation escapes sexual abuse of minors by one or several of its members," the commission concluded.
The 200-page report, published on Friday, contains testimonies from some 124 anonymous victims, revealing that abuse for most began at the age of 12.
It noted a "high number of suicides" with 13 deaths and six attempts attributed to "sexual abuse by a cleric".
"We are talking here about anal and oral abuse, forced and mutual masturbation," said Peter Adriaenssens, the psychiatric specialist in paedophilia who chaired the commission.
"None of us was prepared for the severity of some of the accounts of abuse that we were given. All of us at one time questioned our faith in God, the Church and humanity."
A woman, quoted in the report, testified that she was abused at age 17 by a priest and 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.
But the commission concluded that no evidence of a systematic Church cover-up was found.
Mr Adriaenssens said that most testimony followed the forced resignation in April of the bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, who admitted having sexually abused his nephew between 1973 and 1986.
There was outrage in Belgium when it emerged on Friday that the disgraced bishop was still receiving his full pension of ?2,300 a month despite the abuse scandal.
The report was published 10 weeks after the commission's files were seized by police investigating sexual abuse by clergy.
A Belgian appeals court ruled on Thursday that the police raids had been illegal and documents seized could not be used by prosecutors because the testimony had been given under condition of confidentiality.
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.