Priest, Nobel Prize candidate — and admitted sex abuser

Astonishing and sobering news out of Belgium today, where the sex abuse scandal in the Catholic Church continues to grow wider and deeper.

From the Daily Mail:

A Belgian Catholic priest and would-be Nobel Peace Prize holder has admitted that he sexually abused an eight-year-old boy 40 years ago.

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.

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  1. Pat McNamara says:

    This is so sad. When does it end?

  2. It is so sad, isn’t it? I’m not sure that it ends – which is heartbreaking.

    That said, this case illustrates for me what I know firsthand… That very great, wonderful and amazing people are capable of unspeakable things. My father was the most towering and wonderful figure in my life and yet he was capable of doing awful things as well.

    It seems to be our human nature to keep dividing things into black or white, good or evil, but I am constantly noting how often we are both/and for so many things.

  3. It will never end.

  4. It must end and it can if we take the right approach,the beginning of which is a position of hope and honesty and empathy. While sin can be forgiven, we must confront the reality that child molesters usually will re-offend and cannot be entrusted with sacred offices in the usual sense.

    There is a lot of knowledge in the psychology field on the nature of child molesters. There are occasional one-time offenders. With expert evaluation, one can usually determine this. The problem is there are not that many experts out there, even though many in the mental health field are required to work with offenders.

    THe Church could take the lead in developing the knowledge base in this area. If she does, it would do much to reestablish its authority in the lives of many people.

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