"Archbishop has broken Church's promise"

The Working Group Human Rights in the Church has attacked the interview that the Belgian Primate, Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard, gave on the occasion of Easter about sexual abuse committed by the former Bishop of Bruges and is demanding a Church response to MP's recommendations.

The interview was the first time that the Belgian primate responded to the words of the former Bishop of Bruges, who went on TV and played down the sexual abuse he inflicted on two of his nephews. Archbishop Léonard had said that he found the interview with the former Bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, shocking because he played down what had happened.

The Working Group wants the Archbishop to respond as quickly as possible to the special parliamentary commission set up to look into sexual abuse by persons in authority and in particular within the Church.

A press release from the Working Group claims that the Belgian Primate is adopting the same attitude as the disgraced former Bishop of Bruges - who abused two of his nephews - and is implicitly siding with all the abusers in the Church: "The Archbishop has imposed a ban on public speaking on the former Bishop because he wants the problem to disappear as swiftly as possible."

Mgr Léonard said that Roger Vangheluwe had already been punished enough by Rome, but the Working Group would like to see the document that sets Roger Vangheluwe's punishment.

The Working Group also asks for the Church to respond to the recommendations of the special parliamentary commission: "Léonard has said that the Church would have a response ready by the summer, but this breaks an earlier promise that the answer would be ready by Easter."

Indignation in parliamentary commission

The chair of the special parliamentary commission on sexual abuse, Karine Lalieux, too, has voiced her indignation about the interview.

Karine Lalieux, the Francophone socialist chair, of the special parliamentary commission set up to investigate paedophile abuse by people in authority and in particular by clergy, insisted that once again, even in Archbishop Léonard's interview, there was scant attention for the victims of paedophile abuse by members of the clergy:

"First and foremost I'm once again shocked by the total absence of the victims. Once again in his version of events the Monsignor plays down the sexual abuse within the Church. The church has a moral responsibility and he refuses to recognise it."

The Francophone socialist lawmaker wants to raise the Church's attitude in the follow-up commission on sexual abuse that has to draft legislation implementing the commission's recommendations.