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Belgian bishop describes child abuse on TV

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Roger Vangheluwe, formerly bishop of Bruges. Reuters/Edwin Fontaine

The Vatican says it is preparing to investigate after a Belgian former bishop gave a television interview appearing to play down years of child sex abuse. Roger Vangheluwe, who resigned as bishop of Bruges last year, has never been prosecuted for his crimes.


In the interview broadcast on Thursday night, Vangheluwe described abusing two of his nephews, one for 13 years and another for almost 12 months. Previously he had only admitted to abusing one boy.

“I don't in the slightest have any sense I am a paedophile. I don't get the impression my nephew was opposed, quite the contrary,” he claimed, before acknowledging, “I knew it wasn’t good. I confessed it several times.”

Belgian Prime Minister Yves Leterme said Vangheluwe’s remarks “go beyond the boundary of what is acceptable” and called on the Catholic church to “assume its responsibilities”.

In a joint statement, Belgium’s bishops said they were “extremely shocked” by the interview, which they said totally contradicted recent efforts to tackle child abuse.

The Vatican acknowledges the seriousness of Vangheluwe’s latest admission and is preparing to launch a thorough investigation, according to the pope’s spokesperson Federico Lombardi. Last week the Vatican ordered Vangheluwe to leave Belgium and undergo “spiritual and psychological treatment” in France.

He resigned in April 2010, after the family of his victims sent details of the abuse to Belgian church officials. Prosecutors have not brought charges against Vangheluwe, since his crimes were carried out more than 25 years ago.

A report published by a Belgian commission in September revealed almost 500 cases of alleged sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy.