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article imageBelgian Bishop Roger Vangheluwe admits sexual abuse, resigns

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By Bart B. Van Bockstaele     Apr 23, 2010 in Religion
Roger Vangheluwe, 74, a Catholic bishop of the Flemish city of Brugge in Belgium, has resigned. In a letter, he admits to have abused a boy before and after he became a bishop.
De Standaard, a leading Flemish newspaper in Belgium, reports that the letter has been read by Peter Rossel, the press secretary of the Brugge diocese.
He says that the victim has been permanently scarred as a result and that he has asked him and his family for forgiveness several times during the past decennia, but that neither the boy, nor himself are being "healed".
Pope Benedict XVI has accepted the resignation.
Archbishop Léonard was present at the press conference and confirmed that the resignation had been accepted. He said that Vangheluwe was known as a "great brother and dynamic bishop" who was highly appreciated within the Belgian Church and "We are aware that his resignation will cause a confidence crisis among the people and he hopes that in spite of this, wisdom will prevail", according to De Standaard. Léonard wants to "turn a page from a not-yet-distant past".
Archbishop Léonard hopes that this affair will not discredit the whole of the bishops and the priests of the country. "A large majority among them leads a life in conformity with their calling".
The archbishop was accompanied by Peter Adriaenssens, a child psychiatrist, and the bishop of Tournai, Guy Harpigny. Adriaenssens is the president of a commission that handles complaints about sexual misconduct in the Church and Harpigny is a consultant with the same commission. Among other things, they explained the role of the commission.
Peter Rossel read a statement from the Brugge diocese that said the affair is incomprehensible for the direct subordinates of the bishop and for the entire diocese. His entourage is surprised, shocked and devastated because they did not have the slightest indication that the bishop was bowed down with a serious problem. The diocese stays behind, as if beheaded. The staff members of the bishop have taken note of the decision and they respect it. They feel for those who have suffered.
"The word 'unbelievable' has become concrete for us. Each case is one too many, but we want to emphasize that these are exceptions".
Roger Vangheluwe has been a bishop of Brugge for more than 25 years and was set to retire at the end of 2011.
De Standaard also reports that there is currently no legal procedure against Vangheluwe, and that the office of the public prosecutor never has received any complaints.
Update: VTM, a leading Flemish television station reports that Rik Devillé, a priest himself, knew about the abuse since the 90s, but says that the victim refused to go to the police. He did not have personal contact with the victim, only with a confidante. Devillé did inform Cardinal Danneels, who kept it quiet, but he did not inform the police.
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