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The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Friday, September 10, 2010
Clergy sex victims pan Belgium church abuse report
Statement by Barbara Dorris, SNAP Outreach Director, 314 862 7688
We strongly suspect that there are hundreds more wounded victims and dozens more predator priests in Belgium than these numbers suggest.
In our experience, church-appointed panels like this rarely get anywhere near the truth of how extensive clergy sex crimes and cover ups are. There’s really only one way to expose the church cover up – through the independent professionals in law enforcement.
Reports like this are only marginally helpful. What’s most helpful, of course, is when secular and church authorities make public the names of every Catholic cleric who perpetrated, ignored or concealed these heinous crimes. That’s what safeguards kids.
We commend every single victim who was brave and strong enough to report his or her suffering to this committee. It takes real courage to talk about such horrors with strangers. It takes real compassion to take steps so that other kids are protected. Each victim who spoke with the panel should feel very proud of himself or herself.
Church officials work hard to persuade the public that panels like Adriaenssens’ are independent. They aren’t. These small, hand-picked, carefully-selected individuals who are unlikely to ‘rock the boat’ and who largely depend on the very bishops who appointed them for information about the very crimes which bishops have long covered up. So even though they may be well-intentioned, they have little ability to ferret out the deeply-held secrets that bishops still control.
Catholics and citizens should be skeptical of this report. Victims should keep coming forward. Law enforcement should keep investigating. And no one should, for a minute, naively assume this report signifies even the slightest reform by the church hierarchy. It doesn’t.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 22 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Peter Isely (414-429-7259), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell)
Belgian Catholic Church probe finds 475 abuse cases
BRUSSELS — A Belgian Catholic Church-backed commission Friday published a report revealing hundreds of cases of alleged sexual abuse of minors by clergy and church workers, and 13 suicides by abuse victims.
The commission said it had received 475 complaints in the first six months of this year from alleged victims or their families.
Most were related to charges of sexual abuse committed between the 1950s and the late 1980s by Catholic clergy, but also by teachers of religion and adults working with youth movements.
It noted that one fact in particular showed "the extent of the negative effects: the high number of suicides," the report said.
The commission received 13 reports in which "the person concerned died by suicide and this in relation to sexual abuse by a cleric," it said, adding that another six victims said they had attempted suicide.
The 200-page report which contains testimonies from some 124 anonymous "survivors" -- as the victims of the alleged abuse are called -- reveal that the sexual abuse for most victims began at age 12, although one was two years old, five were aged four, eight aged five and ten aged seven, the report said.
While the description of the alleged sex abuser is often imprecise, where verification had been made 102 were found to have been members of some 29 religious orders, the report said.
"We can say that no congregation escapes sexual abuse of minors by one or several of its members," the report's authors wrote.
Two-thirds of the alleged victims were male, it also noted.
The commission headed by a psychiatric specialist in paedophilia, Peter Adriaenssens, said it received most of its testimony after the forced resignation in April of the bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, who admitted having sexually abused his nephew between 1973 and 1986.
A woman in the report testified that she was abused at age 17 by a priest and tried to seek help from a bishop in 1983.
"I told him 'I have a problem with one of your priests'. He told me: 'Ignore him and he will leave you alone'," she said.
The commission concluded that the victims deserve "a courageous Church which is not afraid to confront its vulnerability, to recognise it, to cooperate in finding fair responses."
The commission members resigned en masse in June after their files were seized in raids by Belgian judicial authorities.
Judges subsequently struck off from admissible evidence the fruits of that search in June at the offices of the church commission.
On Thursday a Belgian appeals court deemed raids on the church headquarters in Brussels and at the home of its former top cardinal disproportionate, and ordered that the material seized be returned with prosecutors unable to use it.
The country's current archbishop, Andre-Joseph Leonard, said after the decision was made public that "it is in everyone's interests that the fundamental rules of law are respected."
10 September 2010 Last updated at 07:42 ET
Belgium church abuse detailed by Adriaenssens report
Harrowing details of alleged sexual abuse of minors by Roman Catholic clergy in Belgium have been released by an official Church investigator.
Peter Adriaenssens said his commission had found cases of abuse in nearly every diocese, and 13 alleged victims had committed suicide.
Two-thirds of victims were males, most of them aged below 15, but 100 females also suffered assaults, he said.
No evidence of a systematic Church cover-up was found, he added.
Bishops had evolved in their views since working with the commission and had not seemed to realise the implications of their past decisions, the investigator said.
Belgium has been shaken by revelations of abuse this year.
In April, the Bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, resigned and admitted to having sexually abused a boy before and after becoming a bishop.
Mr Adriaenssens was speaking 10 weeks after his commission's files were seized by police investigating sexual abuse by clergy.
He shut down the commission at the time, accusing prosecutors of having used it as "bait".
An appeals court ruled on Thursday that the police raids had been illegal and documents seized could not be used by prosecutors.
The Catholic Church in Belgium is due to announce on Monday how the commission's investigations may be continued.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests