Roster of Statements


The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests

SNAP Press Statement

For immediate release: Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Belgian bishops admit worry re $$; Sex abuse victims respond

Statement by Peter Isely of Milwaukee, national board member of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (414-429-7259)

Finally, we’re getting a bit closer to the truth: Belgian Catholic officials now admit that they are more concerned with their money than with victims’ healing.

It’s a pattern we’ve seen time and time again over the past 22 years: misplaced priorities by callous church officials.

This admission comes not just from any Belgian bishop, but from Bishop Guy Harpigny, the one who is specifically in charge of handling child sex abuse in Belgium. In a perverse way, we should be grateful that the Catholic hierarchy is showing its true colors, instead of hiding behind carefully-crafted public relations statements that profess to care about individuals who, in fact, the church hierarchy often shuns.

The notion that Belgian bishops “need more time” to respond to cover up disclosures suggests that these cover ups are somehow sudden news to the church hierarchy. They are not. Catholic officials across the planet have ignored or concealed child sex crimes for decades, perhaps longer. It’s not like these horrors have come as some sort of shock to bishops and cardinals. Their only surprise is perhaps the fact that they are finally being exposed as complicit in these devastating crimes.

Bishop Harpigny talks of being “so careful" about apologies. We wish he and his colleagues would show such care about the safety of innocent children and the well-being of wounded adults.

(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 9,000 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

Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (312 399 4747 cell, [email protected], 07587206053), Barbara Dorris (314 503 0003 cell, [email protected]), Therese Albrecht 07 570 893 544), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, [email protected])

Belgian Catholic Church sex abuse: we feared compensation claims

Belgium's Roman Catholic Church did not apologise for decades of endemic child sexual abuse by its clerics because an official apology would triggered a flood of expensive compensation claims, a senior bishop has admitted.

Bruno Waterfield in Brussels -Published: 2:53PM BST 14 Sep 2010

Guy Harpigny, the bishop of Tournai and the senior cleric responsible for rooting out sex abusers within the Belgian church's ranks, has further inflamed outrage by confessing that financial concerns over litigation stopped an official apology.

"We did not dare. If you officially apologise, then you are acknowledging moral and legal responsibility. Then there are people who ask for money and we don't know what lawyers and the courts will do about that," he said.

There has been widespread anger that Belgium's bishops have failed to apologise and begged for more time to deal with an independent report that uncovered sex abuse committed by at least 91 priests, other clergy or church workers in every congregation in Belgium, taking place over four decades.

At least 13 of the victims had committed suicide following the abuse, the report found last week, in an investigation fuelled by the resignation of the bishop of Bruges after he admitted abusing his nephew and trying to cover it up.

San Deurinck, 65, a Catholic activist who tried to commit suicide after he was abused by two priests as a teenage boy, has called on the Church to "respect victims" and to ensure justice by handing paedophile priests over to the police.

"I always had hope, but then I lost it," he said. "Let the Church understand that justice must do her work. The Church must comply to respect of victims."

Belgian bishops and the Vatican have also clashed over whether the Pope should punish Roger Vangheluwe, the former bishop of Bruges, who plunged the church crisis in April after admitting that he had abused his nephew and had tried to pay off the family.

Federico Lombardi, the Vatican spokesman, said on Monday, that the Pope had no plans for further action after a "quick decision" by the Pontiff "to accept the former bishop's resignation"

"Vangheluwe is no longer allowed to say mass in public. At the moment I have no knowledge of other specific measures that will be taken," said Father Lombardi.

But speaking on Tuesday, Bishop Harpigny called on the Pope to "defrock Vangheluwe", with or without a full ecclesiastical trail

"I would prefer a trial by the church authorities. This would be more honest. But any signal would be a good one," he said.

"Vangheluwe has chosen his own punishment and the Vatican does nothing."

Belgian Church fears apologising for abuse - bishop

Tue Sep 14, 2010 1:05pm GMT - - - By Philip Blenkinsop

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The Belgian Roman Catholic Church is afraid to give a full apology for the sexual abuse of children by its priests as this could open the door to compensation claims, a senior bishop said on Tuesday.

"If we say 'mea culpa', then we are morally responsible, legally responsible, and then people come wanting money," Bishop Guy Harpigny, the Belgian bishops' spokesman on abuse issues, told Belgium's Radio 1.

"We are afraid. Who will ask -- the victims, the court or someone else? That's why we are so careful."

A church commission studying 475 complaints revealed last Friday that sexual abuse had been rife in Catholic institutions in the 1960s and 1970s, and led 13 victims to commit suicide.

But church and judicial authorities have not come up with a clear strategy. Police seized the 475 files and other dossiers in June, but a court declared the raid illegal and ordered the material returned.

On Monday the church announced a plan to open a support and reconciliation centre later this year, but victims' groups said it was too vague, and urged the state to launch another inquiry.

"After the news conference, I got a lot of calls, including from parliamentary deputies, that said 'Please, give all the files to the justice authorities'," Harpigny, who is bishop of Tournai, told La Premiere radio in another interview.

He said he thought the files should be handed over, but that some victims did not want the state involved. Asked about an apology, the bishop told Radio 1: "As an institution I must accept that I am responsible, albeit for things that happened in the 1960s, and that is why, in the name of the church, I ask the victims for forgiveness.

"The news conference yesterday was a missed chance for a 'mea culpa'. Maybe the church was too concerned with itself."

Harpigny said the Vatican would soon make a decision about Roger Vangheluwe, the bishop of Bruges who resigned in April after admitting he had sexually abused his nephew for years.

The bishop suggested last week that Vangheluwe, who is in hiding, be tried under church law. Critics have since called for him to be defrocked, something only Pope Benedict can do.

Harpigny said a decision should come later this year.

(Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop, Tom Heneghan and Philip Pullella; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

problem – that those who conceal abuse are never punished. . .

Pope will not discipline Belgian bishop for now

Published on 14 September 2010 - 11:55am

A spokesperson for the Vatican says Pope Benedict XVI will not, for the time being, impose disciplinary measures on Belgian Roman Catholic cleric Roger Vangheluwe, who resigned as Bishop of Bruges in April after admitting to sexually abusing his underage nephew for years.

The spokesperson, who made his statement to Belgian Dutch-language public broadcaster VRT, said the pope had been deeply saddened by the Vangheluwe case. The pontiff has approved a proposal by the Belgian bishops to set up a support centre for the victims of clerical abuse.

Mr Vangheluwe is under increasing pressure from Belgian Catholics to resign from the priesthood. The elderly former bishop initially withdrew to a monastery near Bruges. Last week, he decided to leave the monastey and his current whereabouts are unknown.

© Radio Netherlands Worldwide

Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests