Belief Beat

The investigation of Catholic Church clergy sex abuse has hit a new low/high in Belgium, where secular authorities raided church headquarters earlier this summer: the release of tapes from an April 8 meeting in which retired Cardinal Godfried Danneels advised a victim, now a grown man, to keep quiet so that his childhood abuser and uncle, Bishop Robert Vangheluwe, could quietly step down next year.

From the New York Times story:

“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.” The cardinal warned the victim against trying to blackmail the church and suggested that he accept a private apology from the bishop and not drag “his name through the mud.”

The victim responded, “He has dragged my whole life through the mud, from 5 until 18 years old,” and asked, “Why do you feel sorry for him and not for me?”

Disturbing stuff, though in Danneels’ defense, his spokesman says he was “unprepared” and “naive” going into the meeting, and his counsel was based on concern for the victim, now 42, and his family about the publicity that would arise from revealing the long-kept secret.

Danneels had retired in January; Vangheluwe resigned in late April, several weeks after his nephew’s recorded conversation with the retired cardinal.

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