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Belgian Cardinal: ‘Naive’ in Advising Abuse Victim to Stay Silent?

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.

What do you think? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.

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Comments read comments(6)
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John Hurd

posted August 31, 2010 at 3:54 pm

Few statements could be more ironic and pathetic than the claim by Cardinal Danneels that the cardinal was “unprepared” for his meeting in which he urged a rape victim to wait for his abuser to retire before going public. After a lifetime of studying the teachings of Jesus, the cardinal was as prepared as he’ll ever be to know that like society, the victim had no reason to care about doing the rapist “no favor.” This excuse makes the life of a Christian “leader” seem worthless when it comes to instilling simple compassion and decency.

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posted August 31, 2010 at 4:00 pm

Keep on posting such articles. I like to read blogs like that. Just add more pics :)

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posted August 31, 2010 at 6:42 pm

The Cardinal is a total jerk! Not say anything so the abuser could retire? Proves he really didn’t care about the victim at all, only to try and continue to shield the church!

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posted August 31, 2010 at 10:51 pm

It looks like shielding the Church and the clergy has been the main motive of a lot of these guys. And that is not morality.
The Catholic Church is pretty much the last place to go looking for morality.

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Joe Gonzalez

posted September 1, 2010 at 12:06 pm

That brings to mind this scenario : A man goes to confession and says he’s committed murder and is highly disturbed and sorry about it. He wants to turn himself in and bring peace to his conscience and satisfaction to the victim’s family. The priest says : I can absolve you. But why turn yourself in, since you’re a month off from retirement ? Live with the secret and make private reparation to the Lord.

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Your Name Barbara Dorris

posted September 1, 2010 at 1:45 pm

Danneels has probably been a priest for 50 years and a bishop for 40. For precisely 29 years, he headed the Belgian Bishops Conference. Our guess is that he’s had dozens of meetings like this. In any event, he’s obviously a smart and highly educated man. He wasn’t “unprepared” in the least.
Barbara Dorris
Outreach Director
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
314 862 7688

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