Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard gave a short response to the decision of Poor Clares in Namur to host Michelle Martin after a future early release. The affair has not yet died down, and the general trend seems to be one of a lack of understanding and anger. The sisters themselves, after meeting with the parents of one of Dutroux’ victims, did not retract their offer to Martin.

Here is the archbishop’s response in my translation:

“I have heard via the media the decision from the court about the conditional release of Michelle Martin. It is not to us, as Church, to comment on a decision of the courts. Whether or not Michelle Martin is released, where and under which circumstances is fully a matter for the civil and legal authorities in this country.

I am aware that the conditional release of Michelle Martin, against which the Public Prosecutor has appealed, triggers many emotions in the victims and their families. I also realise that the decision of the court leads to incomprehension and even anger in a large part of the population.

I have taken note of the statement of the Poor Clares of Malonne, released on 31 July. This statement did justice to the immeasurable suffering of the victims and to the chance for conversion that every person may get.

I wish to emphasise that the Poor Clares of Malonne do not fall under the direct authority of a bishop. After long internal discussion, they have answered positively to the request from the lawyers of Michelle Martin and from the judiciary, since there has seemingly not been found another shelter for her. The sisters made this decision completely autonomously, without consulting the bishops. They have carefully considered the conditions for this shelter which the court has imposed on Michelle Martin.

The shelter that the sisters potentially want to give Michelle Martin, can not diminish the unequivocal choice that the bishops have made to remain on the side of the victims and their relatives in the child abuse affair. This choice is and remains a priority for the bishops.

The social feasibility of the residence of Michelle Martin in Malonne is not a question that needs answering by ecclesial authorities. It is a question that falls under the domain of authority of civil and legal government. The decisions that are made there, are decisive for us.”

+André-Joseph Léonard
Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels
10.08.2012

A clear explanation from the archbishop, as we may expect from him. If there is anything lacking in the above, it is some words to the effect that the decision of the sisters was also made out of Christian charity, and also some clear support for the sisters. They may not fall under the bishops’ authority, but that doesn’t mean that the bishops can’t express support, of course.

Photo credit: Phk/Kerknet

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