Nobel winning Timorese Bishop Belo Reprimanded Quietly
(For Immediate Release October 1, 2022)
The Vatican disclosed on Thursday that it quietly reprimanded East Timor bishop and Nobel Peace Prize laureate Carlos Ximenes Belo two years ago in response to allegations that he sexually molested youngsters in East Timor decades ago. The Vatican's reaction came in response to inquiries from reporters following an article published this week in the Dutch magazine De Groene Amsterdammer. Sadly, we find this easy to believe. And if it's true, we also see this as very troubling.
We admire the victims' bravery in stepping forward. Fighting influential organizations takes willpower and guts. This situation exemplifies the disparity between rhetoric and decisive action of Vatican officials. We consider it a red signal when someone says something happened and then quietly sweeps it under the rug with retirement plans. Vatican officials have the ability but not the desire to make the required changes. Transparency and accountability appear to remain elusive at every level of the Catholic church throughout the world.
We are not surprised by this revelation about Bishop Belo. Our concern is a glaring one and an inexcusable one. We learn from many allegations of sexual abuse against children that there are often more victims. In this tragedy, the Vatican set Belo free to have access to potentially more victims. Bishop after bishop and church officials claim, repeatedly, “we just didn’t know.” For us, we just don’t believe anything from them and join the UN and our friends at Bishop Accountability in a call for a full investigation.
The choice is simple. We can generally assume that Catholic officials lack the knowledge to do what’s right in clergy sex abuse and cover-up cases. That’s what many Catholics and citizens have done for decades, especially when the accused wrongdoer had supporters in their backyards. Or we can generally assume that Catholic officials wish to continue a track of self-preservation and allow surprise news to manifest itself daily.
We urge anyone with information regarding Belo to report their information to secular authorities.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)