Belgian Bishop Insists He Is Not a Pedophile

By Dick, John A. | National Catholic Reporter, April 29, 2011 | Go to article overview

Belgian Bishop Insists He Is Not a Pedophile


Dick, John A., National Catholic Reporter


LEUVEN, BELGIUM Roger Vangheluwe, the disgraced former bishop of Bruges, stressed during a Flemish television interview April 14 that he is not a pedophile. With nonchalance and an occasional chuckle, Vangheluwe said, "I don't in the slightest have any sense I am a pedophile."

On April 23, 2010, Pope Benedict XVI accepted the Vangheluwe's resignation after the Belgian admitted he had abused his nephew for 13 years, starting when the boy was just 5 years old.

On television last month, Vangheluwe, 74, minimized his much-publicized sexual abuse of the one nephew, calling it "a little bit of intimacy," and then admitted to molesting a second nephew. His sexual abuse of the first nephew began when Vangheluwe was a priest and professor at the diocesan seminary in Bruges and continued even after he became bishop of Bruges in 1985.

Abuse of the second nephew began in what Vangheluwe calls "the early period" when he had to bunk with the boys and "it also happened a little bit." The second molestation, he stressed, lasted only a short time.

How did it start? "As in all families," Vangheluwe calmly replied, "when they came to visit, my nephews would stay over. ... It began as a kind of game with this boy. It was never a question of rape, or physical violence. He never saw me naked and there was no penetration. ... I don't in the slightest have any sense I am a pedophile. I don't get the impression my nephew was opposed, quite the contrary."

Vangheluwe said, "I knew it wasn't good. I confessed it several times."

The Belgian Federal Police in Brussels announced April 18 that they are considering filing new sexual abuse charges against Vangheluwe and his confessor, who has been identified as 90-year-old Fr. Jozef Legast. Police have received complaints that Vangheluwe and Legast sexually abused two boys at a camp for altar boys in the 1960s, one of whom reportedly later committed suicide.

After watching the interview on Flemish television, Vangheluwe's nephew, speaking through his lawyer, said he was happy the interview was made public so that people could see firsthand what kind of man his uncle is. He went on to stress that he had never been a consensual participant in sexual activity with his uncle and that the uncle's narration of the molestation details is simply false.

During the interview, Vangheluwe acknowledged that he made several cash payments to his nephew, not as "hush money" but as compensation to cover the young man's psychological counseling. These payments amounted to several thousands of dollars. Unclear is where the bishop got the money to make such payments. Diocesan officials in Bruges say such payments did not come from the diocese.

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