Following the resignation of Bishop Roger Vangheluwe of Bruges, the Belgian church's abuse unit has received dozens of new complaints of child abuse by church employees, according to media reports.
Over the weekend alone, 30 to 40 new reports of abuse were received, the commission chairman Peter Adriaenssens told the daily newspaper "De Morgen" (Monday). Since the beginning of the year, however, only about 20 reports had been made by Friday. Adriaenssens justified the onslaught by saying that the new archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, Andre-Joseph Leonard, made an explicit call for clarification Friday when he announced Vangheluwe's resignation. This, he said, apparently gave victims confidence that their reports would indeed be taken seriously and have consequences. However, so far he was not aware of cases that were not yet barred by the statute of limitations under criminal law. Meanwhile, the Nieuwsblad newspaper reported that Vangheluwe ordained a religion teacher convicted of sexual abuse as a deacon in 1995. The victim's parents would have tried to prevent the consecration in talks with the bishop. Vangheluwe had rejected her request. The deacon had continued in office.
Resignation only under Dru Vangheluwe's resignation was announced on Friday by Pope Benedict XVI. been accepted. In a statement published in Brussels and Rome, the churchman confessed to having sexually abused a minor over a long period of time as a priest and also at the beginning of his time as a bishop. Archbishop Leonard said that while Vangheluwe as a person had a right to hope for mercy from God, as a bishop he was obliged to resign. The archbishop admitted that Vangheluwe had only decided to resign after the victim's family had informed all Belgian bishops about the case on Tuesday.