Here is yet another story where leaders in the Catholic Church disregarded sexual abuse allegations and pressured victims to remain silent. According to the NY Times article, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, 77, who retired as the archbishop of Brussels in January after 30 years, met with the victim, now 42, and his uncle, Bishop Robert Vangheluwe, 73, on April 8 to pressure the victim either to accept a private apology or to wait until the bishop retired.
The main difference from this coverup and the countless others like it? This victim created audio tapes of the meeting! The tapes were recently released and church authorities have verified them as accurate.
During the meeting, Cardinal Danneels stated: “The bishop will resign next year, so actually it would be better for you to wait,” the cardinal told the victim. “I don’t think you’d do yourself or him a favor by shouting this from the rooftops” and “not to blackmail the church. You should accept a private apology from the bishop and not drag his name through the mud.
Another key difference between this case and others is that this did not result from a church investigation.
The case is being handled by the Belgium police. In fact, police raided church headquarters, seized documents and computers and detained several bishops for questioning. Cardinal Danneels was questioned by officers for 10 hours. A retired priest reported that he warned Cardinal Danneels about the abuse 14 years ago but was berated for doing so.
The Pope’s response? He called the police raids “deplorable” and stressed the autonomy of the church to handle it’s own investigations. Yeah, because letting you handle your own cases has worked out so well for all of the other victims. You know what’s deplorable? The sexual abuse of a boy by a trusted faith leader and a family member for 13 years while those in your order bullied and threatened him to keep quiet. All of this happened while the abuse was kept secret. You know what else is deplorable? The fact that you are calling this an investigation. He admitted that he did it and you knew that he did it! What is left to investigate?
Since you are so concerned with handling things yourself, what did you do when this story broke and the facts were presented? You accepted his resignation! You didn’t excommunicate or defrock him. You allowed to retreat to a monastery, where I am sure he is living comfortably. I hope that the police increase pressure regarding this case and drag him off to jail and anyone else who was involved in the coverup. They shouldn’t allow him to receive a peaceful retirement even though you would.