Former Belgian bishop on his abuse: "a little piece of intimacy"

The mind boggles.  Why is this man still a priest?

From the Associated Press:

A former Belgian bishop at the center of one of the Roman Catholic church’s biggest pedophile scandals said Thursday that he had abused two nephews and insisted he had no plans to abandon the priesthood.

In his first television interview since the scandal broke a year ago, Roger Vangheluwe claimed he paid one nephew he abused for years tens of thousands of euros in support, but denied it was meant to keep him silent.

He called 13 years of sexual abuse of one nephew which started at age 5 as no more than “a little piece of intimacy.” He said the abuse of a second nephew was very short.

He said he fully realized what he did was wrong, and often went to confession about it. The 74-year-old Vangheluwe resigned a year ago, just as the sex abuse scandal was spreading across Europe.

The acknowledgment of more abuse and his attempts to minimize its impact immediately caused an outcry. Vangheluwe said the 13-year abuse of his nephew “started as, I would call it, a game. And in fact it never went much beyond that,” he told VT4 network.

“I had the strong impression that my nephew didn’t mind at all. To the contrary,” he said. “It was not brutal sex,” Vangheluwe said. “I never used bodily, physical violence.”

The BBC has more from the interview.

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31 responses to “Former Belgian bishop on his abuse: "a little piece of intimacy"”

  1. He is not performing priestly duties. I’m sure all those who clamor for due process will want to see the Vatican to follow its normal procedures in this case, and not rush to judgment.

    That said, the man obviously should be laicized at the end of the process, based simply on what he is quoted as saying in this article.

  2. Forget being laicized, this predator belongs in prison.

    Church officials said that Mr Vangheluwe would not be prosecuted because the crime had not been reported within the country’s statute of limitations, understood to be ten years after the victim turns 18 for cases of child sex abuse.

    Despite his admissions about his conduct, Archbishop Leonard called Mr Vangheluwe a “great brother and dynamic bishop”.

    Prosecutor Jean-Marie Berkvens said Vangheluwe referred to the abuse as “trifle.” – “I can assure you it was not,” he added.

  3. I’m getting sick and tired of these abusers, and a Bishop no less. How many have lost faith because of what evil these men have done. Whether or not he received forgiveness in the confessional isn’t the issue. The temporal consequences here are huge, for those abused, for the Church and for the world. It makes bringing the gospel to the world that much harder when treachery like this comes from within.

    It makes me sick! The biggest problem in the Church has become SOME (emphasis on some, not all) of the clergy.

  4. He publicly admits to sexual abuse and intimacy with two young boys – and yet he is still permitted to call himself a Bishop? This is not a question of due process – based on his public admission and public lack of remorse he should be removed immediately. I believe this matter has been public for at least a year. A woman who leaves an abusive marriage and finds a loving secure relationship is not permitted to remarry in the Church. If she remarries she is not permitted to receive the Eucharist and in Santa Fe at least, may not be able to participate in Church ministries. Her exclusion is immediate – no due process for her. Why has this narcisstic abusive man allowed to remain a Bishop? This is a scandal of the highest order. Where are the Pharisees when you need them?

  5. From St. Beatus of Liebana, or rather, one of his many sources:

    ‘….the eye of the Church is the bishop… For which reason, the precept is to remove them if they create a scandal to the church, as Truth testifies in the Gospel: “If your eye scandalize thee, pluck it out.”‘

  6. Why has this narcisstic abusive man allowed to remain a Bishop?

    It’s called Hypocrisy with a capital “H”. Yet, we have sanctimonious Bishops who state that you can’t receive Communion if you co-habituate but you can remain a Bishop if you rape your own flesh and blood.

  7. Off Topic: But it shows a split between what we are told by our leaders and what is actually done.

    “Catholic high school graduates hoping to continue their education in institutions of higher learning affiliated with the Mother Church might be surprised by what they find. “University of Detroit Mercy, a Catholic college, is coming under criticism for hosting pro-abortion censured theologian Daniel Maguire, who delivered a lecture at the Jesuit University on April 7,” Steve Ertelt reported on April 13, 2011. “The title of his lecture was ‘The Gender Justice Revolution: How Feminism Builds Bridges Between Genders, Races, Sexual Orientations, Classes and Nations,’ and it’s not a surprising one given his position in favor of abortion.” ”

  8. “I’m sure all those who clamor for due process will want to see the Vatican to follow its normal procedures in this case, and not rush to judgment.”

    That’s pretty sick, if not outright idiotic to say, don’t you think?

    This man has admitted his crime and even defends it as harmless play. That’s a far cry from an allegation being made that one has had consensual sex with another grown adult. And speaking of adult, it helps the level of dialogue if one does not engage in such incendiary baiting.

    That said, this bishop needs to spend the rest of his life in prison.

  9. “How many have lost faith because of what evil these men have done.”

    many millions. More damge has been done by these men than all of the Protestants of the 16th Century combined.

    We must express our bewilderment at the interview given by Roger Vangheluwe to the commercial networks VT$ aaand VTM on Thursday evening, April 14, and wish to expressly distance ourselves from him.

    We are extremely shocked at the way he minimalizes and justifies the acts he committed and the consequences for his victims, their family, believers, and society at large. It is unacceptable.

    Roger Vangheluwe still does not seem to realize the extreme gravity of his acts. This interview does not correspond in any way to what Rome has required of him. We had trusted him to go into retreat in silence abroad so he may reflect on his actions and to follow the spiritual and psychological treatment imposed by Rome.

    This interview is extremely injurious to the victims, their family and all those who are faced with the problem of sexual abuse. And for the faithful, it is a slap in the face. Like us, they are doubtless disconcerted and despairing.

    The tone of the interview is a total contradiction to the efforts taken in recent months to consider the problem of sexual abuse seriously, listen to the victims, and determine the appropriate measures to take.

  11. Here is the wikipedia article about him.
    He is no longer in ministry, and is no longer Ordinary of the diocese.

    By the way, he gets quite handsome retirement benefit, according to wikipedia. Maybe that should be given to help pay off the millions in settlements the Church has paid.

  12. Fr. Donald Cozzens asked this rhetorical question about clergy engaging in sex abuse of the young: “What kind of men are these?”

    He goes on to state, “I sensed little guilt for their seductions. The only regret I could identify was associated with being caught. For the most part, the men I worked with were more concerned about themselves and their futures than for their victims. From my relatively brief work with them I came to regard them as focused sociopaths—little or no moral sense, no feelings of guilt and remorse for what they had done in this area of their lives . . . The absence of remorse and concern for their victims continues to trouble me.”
    “Changing Face of the Priesthood,” Liturgical Press. 2000, p123

  13. Gerard Nadal — I don’t think “sick” or “idiotic” are apt descriptions. “Sarcastic” and “nasty” would be better, IMO.

    But you should realize that I was thinking of more than the case of the priest who was recently accused of consensual sex with an adult. Since I’ve started reading this blog, there have been references to several priests who in recent years had popular public ministries and whose fans objected strenuously when they were suspended.

    I think it is easy for us — myself included — to have double standards, and find absolutely intolerable in one case a process we think too lenient in others.

    Meanwhile the Church proclaims the the good news that Jesus Christ has redeemed the world and offers eternal life to all.

  14. Vangheluwe admits freely that he confessed his sins multiple times over the years. While we can’t know for sure what hiss confessors told him, I can only come up with two scenarios: 1) Vangheluwe carefully chose as confessors priests who were also abusers, who would help him to rationalize away his sociopathy; or
    2) Vangheluwe’s confessor(s) told him firmly that his conduct was gravely sinful, and not only did he disagree, but he somehow was oblivious that the rest of the world disagrees with him.

    Either way, though, we have a man who has great ability to rationalize away his behavior, and a complete lack of empathy which would clue him in as to how utterly appalling normal people would find his rationalizations. This is not just a man who is wrong; this is a man who not only doesn’t know he’s wrong but further seems to be utterly ineducable on the subject. The only way that this man was going to not sexually abuse someone is if he lacked a desire to sexually abuse anyone.

    Such inability to understand the moral judgments of normal people is not only going to express itself in sexual abuse, but also in everything up to that horror. He had to have been a lousy boss, a crummy subordinate, a crappy friend. Morality is not about huge things but trivialities as well, and such truly psychotic amorality must have expressed itself over and over in this man’s life.

    So whose bright idea was it that he’d make a good bishop?

  15. cathyf — A third possible scenario: he knew that it was wrong, which is why he confessed it. Despite some purpose of amendment (which presumably one has when one confesses) he was too weak to overcome the ongoing temptation, so he returned to what he knew was sinful and continued to sin, consoling himself with rationalizations such as he expressed in the interview.

  16. “That said, the man obviously should be laicized at the end of the process, based simply on what he is quoted as saying in this article”

    Cases of Bishops being laicized are extemely rare. Lugo and Milingo are two. Doubt if that will happen here.

  17. These laws on statute of limitation should only apply when the accused denies their guilt and a case cannot be reasonably made against them. When they admit guilt, they should indeed be tried for the crimes.

    And any priest hearing the confession of such crimes should withhold absolution until there is proof in action of repentance and resolve to sin no more. Admitting their offense to their superior and seeking help on their own initiative would be a good start to prove they are serious. Withholding absolution would prevent them from saying Mass since they could not receive the Eucharist worthily. That would force them to act and not just keep coming back to confession.

  18. He can/could continue to confess until he is blue in the face—he belongs in a jail cell, for the rest of his natural life. How in the world can a sane man claim it was “a little piece of intimacy?” This male is a sick puppy, and deserves NO retirement, only a jail cell. IF there is actually a hell—he belongs in it.

  19. Leave it to a Catholic (George #13) to try to minimize the confessed barbarism of a Bishop by obfuscating the issue with abortion. It is telling that folks like George seem to wish to hide the sin of his church’s leadership beneath the corpses of unborn children.

  20. This has become so nauseating. Corapi was put on leave faster than this nut. Or is he on leave? He’s admitted everything, no? Somebody simply needs to pick up the phone and say’ “Roger old boy, Your Fired. If you need psychiatric help and spiritual guidance, you got it.”

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