The Disgrace of Cardinal Danneels and the Belgian Catholic Church

This past week, Belgian police raided the headquarters of the Catholic Church in Belgian, as well as the home and office of recently retired Archbishop Godfried Danneels, during an investigation into the sexual abuse of children.

Rorate Caeli provides the full text of Pope Benedict’s letter to Abp. André Joseph Léonard, Archbishop of Mechlin-Brussels and President of the Belgian Episcopal Conference, responding to the unfortunate series of events:

I wish to express to you, dear Brother in the Episcopate, as well as to all Bishops of Belgium, my closeness and my solidarity in this moment of sadness, in which, with certain surprising and deplorable methods, searches were carried out in Mechlin Cathedral and in places where the Belgian Episcopate were assembled in plenary session. During that meeting, aspects related to the abuse of minors by members of the clergy were to have been treated, among other things. I have myself repeated numerous times that these grave facts should be treated by the civil order and by the canonical order in reciprocal respect for the specificity and autonomy of each one. In this sense, I wish that justice will follow its course, ensuring the rights of persons and institutions, in respect for victims, with the recognition, without prejudices, of those who wish to collaborate with it and with the refusal of everything that could darken the noble duties that are ascribed to it.

As Rorate Caeli notes, there is a “one-sideness” and “tone-deafness” to the papal remarks. The impression is exacerbated by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone,

who characterized the Belgian police’s raid as “a kidnapping, a grave and inconceivable fact”, having “no precedent even in communist regimes.”

However, a report from the Flemish De Standard casts light on the investigation of the tombs. English translation via Google, so pardon the choppiness (HT again: Rorate Caeli):

“There are traces of tampering can be seen around the tomb of Cardinal Leo Suenens. Maybe that aroused the attention of police. Suenens was buried in 1996. The cardinal should nevertheless very prescient than to have hidden files. ”

Local television to watch the officers walked inside the cathedral Thursday with crowbar and hammer drill. That fueled rumors that they broke open tombs in the crypt. The Vatican yesterday expressed outrage at the “desecration by the Belgian judicial authorities.”

“Well, desecration,” says the guide. ‘Investigators have two holes drilled in the wall that separates the two burial niches in the outside world. Behind it are a dozen boxes. Through those holes, they looked around with a camera, but found nothing. Can you call that sacrilege? Maybe they also want to break into boxes. But when you consider who it is, do you think twice[?]

Meanwhile, the National Catholic Reporter translates a La Stampa interview with Fr. Rik Devillè, a retired Belgian priest and anti-pedophilia crusader:

The Belgian church instituted its own commission to investigate charges of abuse, the Adriaenssens Commission. Is that not enough?

The problem was its connection with the Archdiocese, and the absence of either a lay component internally or a connection with the civil authorities. I always hoped that a truly independent commission would be formed, an organism whose objective was to help justice take its course. That must be the way. It’s not up to the church to decide who violated the law and who should be punished.

Do you believe that Belgium is a special case? Or is the plague of sexual abuse by clergy a common evil?

It happens everywhere, believe me. Belgium believed itself to be an exception because no case ever came to light. Yet as early as 1994, I had collected 82 accusations. The victims wanted to be heard by the church, they wanted to break the curse. It’s been useless, at least up to now.

You have said that you spoke with Cardinal Godfried Danneels, the former primate of the Belgian church, but he says he doesn’t remember.

I spoke with him about my files on two occasions, in the first half of the 1990s. I advised him of the problem, and I don’t know what he did afterwards. On one occasion, however, I remember that the cardinal became angry. He said this wasn’t my job and that I should stay out of it.

Do you think he said that to hide something?

The bishops have a long history over their shoulders of silence and omissions. They protect the guilty, and not the victims.

The conservative blog Brussels Journal has a must-read account by Alexandra Colen, homeschooling mother and Member of the Belgian Parliament for Antwerp, on Catholic life during the reign of Cardinal Danneels:

Since the revelation in April that Cardinal Danneels’s close friend and collaborator, Mgr Roger Vangheluwe, the Bishop of Bruges, had been a practicing pedophile throughout, and even before, his career as a bishop, victims have gained confidence that they will be taken seriously, and complaints have been pouring in, both to the courts and to the extra-judicial investigation committee of the archdiocese. The new archbishop Mgr. André-Joseph Léonard, has urged victims to take their case to the courts.

His predecessor, the liberal Cardinal Danneels, who was very popular with the press in Belgium and abroad, was Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels and Primate of Belgium from 1979 until 2010. The sympathy for pedophile attitudes and arguments among the Belgian bishops during this period was no secret, especially since 1997 when the fierce controversy about the catechism textbook Roeach made the headlines. The editors of Roeach were Prof. Jef Bulckens of the Catholic University of Leuven and Prof. Frans Lefevre of the Seminary of Bruges. The textbook contained a drawing which showed a naked baby girl [which describes the genital stimulation of toddlers as "good fun"].

I told Cardinal Danneels that, although I was a member of Parliament for the Flemish-secessionist party Vlaams Blok, I was addressing him as a Catholic parent “who wishes to remain faithful to the papal authority and also wishes to educate her children this way.” I insisted that he forbid the use of this book in the catechism lessons: “This is why I insist – yes, the days of meekly asking are over – that you forbid the use of this ‘catechism book’ in our children’s classrooms.”

Today this case, that dates from 12 years ago, assumes a new and ominous significance. Especially now that I know that Mgr Roger Vangheluwe, the pedophile child molesting Bishop of Bruges, was the supervising bishop of both institutions – the Catholic University of Leuven and the Seminary of Bruges – whence came the editors in chief of this perverted “catechism” textbook.

Monsignor Vangheluwe not only entertained pedophile ideas, but also practiced them on his 11-year old nephew. Hundreds of children who were not raped physically were molested spiritually during the catechism lessons.

After I started my campaign against the Roeach textbook, many parents contacted me to voice their concerns. Stories of other practices in the Catholic education system poured in. There were schools where children were taught to put condoms over artificial penises and where they had to watch videos showing techniques of masturbation and copulation.

Because Cardinal Danneels refused to respond to requests to put an end to these practices, I and hundreds of concerned parents gathered in front of his palace on 15 October 1997. We carried placards with the text “Respect for parents and children,” and we said the rosary. Cardinal Danneels refused to receive a delegation of the demonstrators. “I shall not be pressured,” he said in the libertine magazine Humo on 21 October 1997. The Archbishop’s door remained closed …

Those expressing frustration over the impertinence of the Belgian police’s raid are encouraged to read the accounts of Alexandra Colen and Fr. Rik Devillè.

Finally, Michael Liccione (Sacramentum Vitae) asks the question:

Cardinal Danneels was, himself, enabled to enable the problems for three decades. What makes it so astonishing is that … the problems were public knowledge for much of that time. So how did he get away with it?

21 Responses to The Disgrace of Cardinal Danneels and the Belgian Catholic Church

  • And there are still many people that “pooh-pooh” pointing out the wrongs of our bishops.

    Well I’m glad I never listen to their crocodile crying.

  • “Those expressing frustration over the impertinence of the Belgian police’s raid…” include the pope!! This is truly horrifying to me.

  • This is the particularly disturbing in light of Danneels having been considered papabile in some circles. We certainly have the Holy Spirit to thank that we don’t have someone so obviously tainted at the healm at this time.

    On the Vatican response — their press office is pretty notoriously amateur. I wonder if they responded to the accounts in the populat press on the first day without actually having looked into the details first.

  • So these sorts of statements released with the pope’s “signature” are routinely not written by the pope himself?

  • I reread the entire article over at The Brussels Journal.

    Cardinal Danneels disgusts me almost as much as Weakland did.

    Cardinal Danneels should be handcuffed and taken into custody until a trial date is set for his cover-up of the sickness inside the Belgian Catholic Church.

  • This looks like an absolutely horrible mess, far worse than the scandala in Ireland and the US. I can understand how a kid who went through this grows up with an implacable hatred of the Catholic Church. It appears that Cdl Danneels and his band of brothers were allowed to get away with it for so long precisely because they were part of the liberal establishment. All too often these prelates, instead exercising close pastoral care and supervision of the spiritual life of Catholics, spend their time holding forth on matters of peripheral concern such as Israel and immigration. I suppose this is the preferred way to ease their conscience. Cdl Danneels is famous for allowing Muslims free rein on Catholic property.

  • Cardinal Danneels used his standing as the prelate of Belgium to push for his most extreme liberal causes at the expense of the souls he was suppose to shepherd.

    This should be a warning to Cardinal George, O’Malley, and the rest of the liberal cabal at the USCCB that they need to heed the spiritual needs of their flock instead of pushing the Democratic Party agenda and warming up to Teddy, Nancy, and John Kerry.

    This disgusts me to no end.

  • This is a pissing contest between the Belgian liberals and the conservatives. Obviously this was part of a sex education program instituted by Daneels to be au currant with other European nations. If yoyu’ve not seen some of the things that is being taught to 13 year olds in ‘secular’ education, it would make you wretch. However I noticed that this article omits the last paragraph from the Journals article which expressed the responses from other Cardinal prelates around the Globe on such a course.

    “I received letters of support from cardinals from all parts of the globe. “I share your concern. It is important that you do not leave the matter uncontested,” wrote Cardinal Meisner of Cologne; “You have good reasons to be concerned,” wrote Cardinal Wamala of Uganda; “I feel strongly enough to write to Cardinal Danneels in the hope that he may enlighten me,” wrote Cardinal Vidal of the Philippines; “If I have the opportunity to discuss with Cardinal Danneels the matter you have drawn to my attention, I will do so,” wrote Cardinal Williams of New Zealand; “I shall try to do something in order to help you,” wrote Cardinal Lopez Rodriguez of Santo Domingo; “I am aware that your concerns have been brought to the attention of Cardinal Laghi, Prefect for the Congregation for Catholic Education,” wrote Cardinal O’Connor of New York.”

    None of this mitigates due process or even begins to construe a legal linkage between the abuse cases and sex education courses. If so, American courts will be extremely busy in the future.

  • Robert C.,

    I read the same article and my question is, did those bishops and cardinals follow up those letters of support by contacting Cardinal Danneels and investigating these allegations.

    Regardless, if this is true, Cardinal Danneels should be scrutinized with a thorough investigation of his memoirs.

  • Danneels is clearly much at fault here, and I would imagine that at the very least he’ll end up like Law.

    At the same time, as I think about it, the search of the crypt remains a pretty over-the-top act. I mean, seriously: outside of a Dan Brown novel who is going to be hiding incriminating documents in the crypt of a dead bishop? If you want to get rid of incriminating documents, the obvious thing would be to get rid of them not bury them in a place which would result in the maximum possible scandal if they were found there. (If the shredder is un-handy, I believe that a locked filing cabinet in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying “Beware of the leopard” is traditional.)

    While having no interest in cushioning Danneels’ long overdue fall from grace, it seems fairly reasonable of Rome to be upset over the crypt opening — even if it was only drilling a couple holes and peeking around with a camera.

  • Raiding the tombs is absolutely over the top.

    As one Vatican observer said, not even during the communist era did such acts occur.

  • Exactly correct, Darwin.

    I do think people need to support a proper investigation if there are justified reasons for it; on the other hand, I do not think that allows extreme police-state like tactics.

  • “not even during the communist era…”

    Wrong.

    Much worse happened in the communist era, and continues to happen under communism today, but the Vatican ignores it.

    Churches and shrines are routinely bulldozed in communist China and in Vietnam. Tombs mean nothing to them.

    Why does the Vatican ignore the millions of Catholics put to death by communism?

  • Come now, is the entire clergy abuse scandal really the fault of “liberal” bishops? Worldwide? Seems to me there has been plenty of scandal to go around.

    Certainly, the protectors of perps like Fr Marcial Maciel Degollado were not hardly the liberation theology types, including the past Bishop of Rome.

    The problem is an old-boy network of fraternal pandering and protection, not unlike what was often seen in groups like Freemasonry and the Mafia.

  • RSG,

    including the past Bishop of Rome.

    Yes, anti-Catholic bigots are a dime a dozen.

    Thanks for that bit of nawlidge.

  • The paedophile clerics and their friends in the Belgian Church hawe sown the wind, now their reap the storm, their reward. I hope the police will investigate them carefully in minute details and jail them with harsh sentences.
    Their fellows in the US will take their turn soon.
    I am sorry for the Pope and for Card. Bertone.
    The Pope may err in that issue: The pontifical infallibility doesn’t stretch up to protect these criminals, even if our Holy Father haas but a few responsibility in the laissez-faire which was the policy of his predecessors.
    There is an URGENT need to sweep and clean vigorously the Temple of God. The door is wide open to push these evil men out.

  • Fr. Marciel was pathological. He used the Church and his alleged orthodoxy as cover for his pathology but never sought to change the Church into his sad image. Clerics who promoted catechisms like those noted in the links were trying to change the Church to advance their pathologies. Quite a difference.

  • The church will fight the homosexual paederasty that has pushed its liberal agenda for too long under a false interpretation of Vatican II. The liberal mafia must be identified and cast out from wherever it has infested the Church.

    This is battle royal.

    Support the Holy Father.

    The church is fully aware of the persecution and murder of Catholics around the World. See ACT (Action for the Church in Need)

  • The Patriarch of the West, The Pope is infallable on faith & morals but on issues like homosexual pedophila John 23, Paul 6 & John Paul 2 will have a lot to answer for in that horrible day they face G-D. Under their regimes liberal-socialist theology and a cabal of homosexual priests, lesbian nuns, and queer monks were given free reign and grew worldwide. The denigration of the 16oo yr old divine liturgy (Mass) liberation theology perverted seminaries since the ambiguous pastoral council called vatican 2 was the crack in the wall liberal socialists had been looking for, for the last 100 years. They found it in john 23rd aggoriomento. Even the socialist pope Paul 6th finally admitted the stench of satan had entered the church,(with the help of the above hierarchs).It is up to this good and holy Pope Benedict 16th to mop up the mess of these previous Popes.

  • Millions voted by walking out of the Catholic church in the years since Vatican 2 (rightly or wrongly). What was Holy & Sacred prior to this council suddenly became profane & illegal and anyone who dared to attend the ancient liturgy or question a liberal parish priest were ridiculed and shunned as fanatics. When in fact the real fanatics were the socialist, liberals aka “usefull” idiots liberal periti and “theologists” like Kung, hierarchs like weakland, mahoney,Brown,Gumbleton,Daneel, law & suenan not to mention the author of the venacular service called the novus ordo missae the freemason Archbishop annabal bugnini.

  • In a parting thought I will predict, since I’m NO prophet that the so-called Liberal branch (infestation) in the Catholic church will go the way of the Anglican schismatics, the american & Canadian episcopals and the heretical church of Horny Henry 8th, the so-called church of England.

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