Translation of statements about the resignation of the bishop of Bruges

The two most important statements relating to the resignation of Msgr. Vangheluwe, former bishop of Bruges, those by Msgr. Vangheluwe himself and the one by Archbishop Léonard, are available in English via the Vatican Information Service.

The text by Bishop Harpigny describes the procedures followed by him and the commission that deals with sexual abuse cases.

Professor Peter Adriaenssens, chairman of the Committee for the the treatment of complaints of Sexual Abuse in Pastoral Relations had this to say:

“The Committee for the treatment of complaints of Sexual Abuse in Pastoral Relations considers the story of the Msgr. Vangheluwe’s victim an example of how growing up with an ‘unresolved past’ can make people sick according to the various meanings of the word and throws them into an endless search. Sexual abuse is in the first place a problem of abuse of power. Two aspects poison the chances of recovery: the secrecy enforced upon teh victim and the small circle in which the facts occur. The fact that people, even years later, decide not to be able to live with what happened to them is rooted in these. The antidote is clear. Counter to abuse of power is restoration of equality. Against the pressure of secrecy stands the right to openly make us of the freedom of speech. Against the closed nature of what happens indoors stands the transparency of policy with clear public communication. These are the three elements of recovery which are presented today to the victim and his family. We hope that the clear consequences for the responsible offender can help strengthen the victim in being part of our community.

Respect for the victim who has the courage to, in his suffering, step out of secrecy, means two things. On the one hand the responsible parties must do everything to protect the victim and stop the offender. On the other hand there is also a responsibility for the public opinion, namely to respect the anonymity requested by the victim and his family. As chairman and contact for the victim I strongly ask the media to respect this, and not to try and achieve contact.

As chairman I appreciate the Belgian bishops for the openness with which they approach the work of the Committee. The complaint that we had to investigate and which unites us today can be considered a test for transparency and decisiveness. In the media the question of whether the committee is capable of independently formulating her decisions appeared several times these past weeks. We did not consider it useful to continuously enter debate about this. The only right answer is to judge us on what we do.

Ever file on sexual abuse in the Church is a matter of loss for all of us. Measurable damage has been done to the victims, and much time and energy must be spent on deciding ont he offenders, and there is the invisible cost of violated trust. That is why I repeat here the call of the Committee to not only the victims but also to people who know they have crossed the boundaries of sexual behaviour, not to wait until the victims are of an age where they can charge them, but to have the courage themselves to contact us and let themselves be helped.”

Spokesman Peter Rossel of the Diocese of Bruges concluded with:

“This event is incomprehensible for those nearest to the bishop and in extension the entire diocese. The entourage of the bishop is surprised, shocked and upset, because there was no sign that the bishop was suffering under such a serious problem. The diocese is left decapitated after the bishop’s decision. The staff of the bishop took note of the bishop’s decision and respect it. They are sympathetic with those who have suffered. For this we in the diocese have no words. The word ‘unbelievable’ has become reality for us. We emphasise that every case is one too many, but that they are exceptions.

What Canon Law dictates is supposed to happen now: the college of consultors will appoint a diocesan administrator as soon as possible (canon 412), who will care for the running affairs of the diocese until the appointment of a new bishop by the pope. Until the appointment of the administrator and because the current vicars of the bishops are also resigning according to Church Law, no further statements swill be forthcoming from the diocese.”


Rumours about resignation Belgian bishop – to be updated

There are rumours that Bishop Roger Vangheluwe of Bruges has offered his resignation in relation to a case of sexual abuse. There are as yet no details or official confirmation of the case and the resignation. A family member of the bishop is said to have related the news to a press agency.

At noon today Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard of Malines-Brussels, Bishop Guy Harpigny of Tournai and Professor Peter Adriaenssens, chair of the committee investigating abuse claims in the Belgian Church, will hold a press conference.

Bishop Vangheluwe has been the head of the Bruges diocese since 1985.

EDIT (10:47): Belgian daily De Standaard reports that the resignation of a bishop was announced yesterday by the Belgian bishops’ conference, after which aforementioned family member identified Msgr. Vangheluwe as the bishop in question. The newspaper also says that Pope Benedict XVI is said to have already accepted the resignation.

EDIT (11:46): The press conference, due to start in less than fifteen minutes, can be watched here.

EDIT (12:25): Press conference revealed that Bishop Vangheluwe was himself guilty of abuse of a boy, in the time before he was appointed bishop. Archbishop Léonard was visibly emotional during the press conference, and statements from the spokesman of the Diocese of Bruges reflected similar feelings among the staff of the bishop.

I’ll make the statements of former Bishop Vangheluwe, Archbishop Léonard, Bishop Harpigny and spokesman Peter Rossel available in English in the course of the afternoon. You may already read the Dutch texts here.

In the meantime, let us pray for the victim and his family, that they may be helped on their way to recovery; for the Diocese of Bruges and the entire Belgian Church, that they may weather this storm and emerge stronger; and for Fr. Roger Vangheluwe, that he may be truly repentent for what he has done, and so receive the mercy of God.