Belgian primate found guilty of misconduct and ordered to pay damages to abuse victim

The Tablet (UK)
May 6, 2015

The Archbishop Brussels, André-Joseph Léonard, has been ordered to pay €10,000 in damages for failing to act on allegations of sexual abuse in the 1990s when he was bishop of Namur. The civil case was brought by a former seminarian who was abused by a priest in the late 1980s,when he was a 14-year-old altar boy.

Joel Devillet, now 42, filed an abuse complaint with a church tribunal, but it advised counselling for him and did not alert the police, said an appeals court in Liege that overturned an earlier judgment exonerating Léonard.

It also said Léonard, who is head of the Belgian bishops’ conference, did not discipline the offending priest, who went on to commit further abuse in another parish. "The way in which Archbishop Léonard treated the case of Joel Devillet constituted misconduct," the court said.

Archbishop Léonard’s lawyer said his client disagreed with the court judgment but had not yet decided whether he would appeal. "The court lists various things that certain people should have done, but nothing that Archbishop Léonard categorically should have done," he said. “That nuance is important.”

Léonard turned 75 this week and has said he wants to retire immediately and devote himself to the formation of seminarians in the Fraternity of the Holy Apostles, a religious community he founded two years ago.


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