Disgraced Belgian Bishop to Retreat after Sex Abuse Cases Exposed

Monsters and Critics
September 11, 2010

Brussels - A Belgian bishop who resigned from his post in April after admitting to having abused his nephew announced his 'retreat' on Saturday, a day after a dossier detailing hundreds of child sex abuse cases within the Catholic Church was exposed.

Roger Vangheluwe, former bishop of Bruges, is the highest profile priest in Belgium to have been named in the church abuse scandal.

On Saturday, Vangheluwe held a press conference to announce he would leave the diocese of Bruges and 'retreat to ponder further on his life and future.'

After Vangheluwe's confession, more than 200 people reported other abuse cases to an internal Catholic Church committee, the man who chaired the panel - psychiatrist Peter Adriaenssens - said Friday.

Adriaenssens said his committee has received complaints from 327 men and 161 women in total, with alleged victims being as young as 2 years old. A further 19 cases concerned victims of an 'unknown' sex, he added.

The revelation caused a furore in Belgium, drawing comparisons with the case of Marc Dutroux, a serial paedophile child murderer from the 1990s who is serving a life sentence.

A spokesman for Cardinal Godfried Danneels said Saturday that the head of the Belgian Catholic Church was 'shocked' by the testimonies detailed in the report, the Belga news agency reported.

The work of Adriaenssens' committee had stopped abruptly in June, when the police confiscated its documents in a highly publicized swoop that also targeted the headquarters of the Belgian Catholic Church in Mechelen.

All members of the child abuse committee resigned en masse in the wake of the raids, which were declared illegal by an appeals court earlier this week.

After judges ordered the confiscated documents to be returned, Adriaenssens decided to make them public, hiding the name of the victims to maintain their privacy.

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