Belgian Archbishop's Resignation Will Test Pope's Policy on Sex-abuse Response

Catholic Culture
May 5, 2015

The looming resignation of Belgiumís leading Catholic prelate will bring a new test for Pope Francisí determination to hold prelates accountable for their handling of sex-abuse cases.

Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard of Brussels will celebrate his 75th birthday on May 6, and in accordance with the Code of Canon Law will be obliged to submit his resignation to Pope Francis. Less than two weeks ago, a Belgian court ordered the archbishop to pay ą10,000 in damages to a sex-abuse victim, ruling that the prelate was responsible for a failure to take action on abuse complaints.

While the archbishopís attorney said that he might appeal the courtís decision, the judgment added to heavy pressure on the Catholic hierarchy in Belgium. Archbishop Leonardís predecessor in Brussels, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, had been charged with covering up evidence of sexual abuse; and in 2010 police had raided the offices of the bishopsí conference, looking for evidence of criminal negligence.

Although bishops are required to submit their resignations upon turning 75, the Pope is not required to accept those resignations, and many bishops continue to serve for months or even years.

Archbishop Leonard has said that when his retirement takes effect, he hopes to live out his days with the Fraternity of the Holy Apostles, a community he founded in 2013.








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