Astonishing and sobering news out of Belgium today, where the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church continues to grow wider and deeper.
The case only came forward when his cousin, the sister of his victim, came forward in reaction to a campaign to nominate Francois Houtart for the accolade.
She told the Belgian church authority that looks into child abuse, the Adriaenssens commission, that the abuse on her brother happened in 1970 while he stayed at their house.
Houtart, 85, was a prominent third world activist and chairman of a development agency that he founded in 1976, Center Tricontinental, until he resigned from the board in November in light of the allegations.
He is currently in Ecuador and was not responding to phone calls or emails but told Belgian newspaper, Le Soir, that he twice touched ‘the intimate parts’ of a boy he described as his cousin and said the incident was ‘inconsiderate and irresponsible’.
The priest said he spoke to the victim’s parents to see if they wanted him to quit as a priest but they told him to speak to a professor in Brussels.
They advised him to stay in the priesthood and concentrate on his academic work in religious sociology.
Houtart also told the newspaper that he had asked supporters to suspend the campaign for his nomination for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.
Once dubbed as the ‘Pope of anti-globalisation’ he was professor of sociology at the Catholic University of Brussels from 1958 until 1950.
He attended the second Vatican council for three years from 1962 and was one of the pioneers of the first World Social Forum in Proto Alegre in 2001 – an event when countries gather to look at different ways of running democracies.