VATICAN CITY (RNS) Secret audio recordings show the former head of the Belgian Catholic Church asking a sex abuse victim not to expose the crimes of his assailant, a bishop who was the victim’s uncle.
The tapes, whose contents were published in Belgian newspapers on Saturday (Aug.28), were recorded in April of this year.
They show Cardinal Godfried Danneels urging a 42-year old victim to remain silent about the years of sex abuse he suffered as a child and adolescent at the hands of Bishop Roger Vangheluwe of Bruges ”at least until after Vangheluwe’s expected retirement the following year.
The bishop will resign next year, so actually it would be better for you to wait, says Danneels, who retired in January as the archbishop of Brussels. I don’t think you’d do yourself or him a favor by shouting this from the rooftops.
When the cardinal beseeches the victim not to drag the bishop’s name through the mud, the victim’s response is unsympathetic
He has dragged my whole life through the mud, from 5 until 18 years old, the victim tells Danneels. Why do you feel so sorry for him and not for me?
In the second of two tapes, made after Vangheluwe himself joins the meeting, the victim tells his uncle: This is unsolvable. You’ve torn our family completely apart.
Church spokesmen have confirmed the authenticity of the recordings, and said that Danneels regrets his naive decision to act as a mediator between victim and abuser, even though he was no longer the head of the Belgian church.
Vangheluwe resigned two weeks after the meeting, admitting to molestation of a boy in my entourage two decades earlier.
Two months later, Belgian police raided the home of Danneels’ successor, Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, and the offices of a church-backed commission investigating clerical abuse. Bishops attending a conference were detained for nine hours, and the tomb of an archbishop was opened and searched.
According to church lawyers, a Belgian court has since ruled the June 24 raids illegal, and the documents obtained then to be inadmissible in any judicial proceedings, but the official status of the investigation remains uncertain.