The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Spokesman of conservative archbishop quits; says he can no longer speak for a 'loose canon'; SNAP responds
Statement by Lieve Halsberghe, Belgium SNAP Director, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (+32 475 910 918 [email protected])
We’re disappointed that Mr. Mettepenningen is resigning for what we believe are the wrong reasons. He should step down because Belgian Catholic officials continue to resist reform and work to thwart a long-overdue and sorely needed state probe into clergy sex crimes and cover ups. Instead, he’s stepping down apparently out of personal frustration because Belgian’s top church prelate repeatedly makes insensitive public comments.
The real issue is not Archbishop Leonard’s remarks. It’s the actions, and inaction, of Leonard and his brother bishops in the face of a horrific, on-going scandal that leaves children at risk and victims in pain even now.
(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, 314-645-5915 home, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, [email protected]), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, [email protected])
Spokesman of conservative archbishop quits; says he can no longer speak for a 'loose canon'
BRUSSELS (AP) — The spokesman for Andre Leonard, Belgium's ultraconservative archbishop, quit Tuesday, saying he can no longer speak for a "loose canon," who has shocked Catholics by sympathizing with priests accused of pedophilia and condemning homosexuals.
The resignation of spokesman Juergen Mettepenningen reflected turmoil in Belgium's Catholic Church that began with a June 24 police raid on church offices, part of an investigation into hundreds of cases of sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests.
Aggravating matters — at a time when the church needed public support — Leonard has aired conservative views, calling AIDS "immanent justice" for homosexuals and saying that prosecuting retired priests for child abuse cases would be "vengeful.”
Mettepenningen said Leonard is out of touch with Belgium's Catholic base.
"At times, he behaved like a loose cannon who thinks everybody else is wrong," Mettepenningen said at a news conference. "I was his GPS for three months. But it is the driver who has his hands on the wheel and sets the course."
In recent weeks, mainstream Catholic organizations have publicly spoken out against Leonard's conservative views.
On Tuesday, socialist legislator Jean-Marie de Meester filed a complaint against him with Belgium's anti-racism center for his "homophobic" viewpoints.
Mettepenningen said Leonard has ignored an agreement between the two of them to refrain from controversial statements until Christmas.
At an All Saints Mass in Brussels on Monday, Leonard spoke publicly — and unapologetically — about his conservative views. "I understand your concerns," he told the congregation, but added: "There you have it. Think of this as you may, with the help of God."
In an interview with the Brussels daily De Standaard last weekend, Mettepenningen first signaled he had had enough. "Many people wonder, 'How does he (Mettepenningen) keep this up? Well, I ask myself the same question," the spokesman was quoted as saying.
The sex abuse scandal involving Belgian priests is part of the broader one that engulfed the Catholic Church in Europe and beyond, with reports of abuse of youths at seminars, schools and other church-run institutions.
In Belgium, at least 500 people have filed sex abuse cases against priests with the Brussels' prosecutor's office. The most notable one involves Roger Vangheluwe, the former bishop of Bruges who resigned in April after admitting he sexually abused a nephew for years.
As the archbishop of Belgium, Leonard is the country's Roman Catholic primate. He was appointed on Jan. 18 by Pope Benedict XVI whose choice for a very conservative hand on the wheel of the Belgian church has disappointed many in this country.
Leonard succeeded Godfried Danneels who was more moderate but whose reputation was blemished by the church abuse scandal, which broke after his retirement and has shown him as lackluster in cracking down on abusing priests.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests