Calling All Belgian Catholics

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Remember that controversial post I mentioned a while back?
Well, it’s still sitting half written on the paper sleeve I began it on. I look at it and consider it from time to time, but it always boils down to my inner voice asking, “do I want to write this because I’m truly interested or because the topic touches on a tender spot that I’m trying not to let grow bitter?”
So rather than dive face first into that snakepit (for now), I’m going to take on a topic I feel perfectly fine about…criticizing Catholocism!

Yay!!!

As I’m sure  most of my Belgian readers (and probably some others among you) know, one of the better know bishops in Flanders, Roger Vangheluwe, resigned from his position on April 22 of this year, after admitting that he continuously molested his nephew while he was a priest and also after he’d been made bishop, shocking the Flemish community (even Piet, the atheist), since he had spoken against molestation in the Catholic church until as late as the day before he resigned.

Since his confession, Vangheluwe has been holed up in Westvleteren abbey while a Flemish investigator researched whether or not the Belgian church could be held culpable for covering up and therefore facilitating the instances of molestation in the church. The Catholic church and Pope Benedict voiced its outrage that Belgium’s justice system dared to try to investigate rather than leave the matter where it belonged, namely in the pedophilic hands of the church diocese. Irregardless, the investigation continued and a report was recently released stating that, according to the information gathered, this was not an isolated incident, but rather practically the norm and was indeed something structural within the church and was kept silent, despite the reports of victims.

Since the report was given on national television, Vangeluwhe has left Westvleteren and is now supposedly in Westmalle abby. In the meantime a former Belgian-gone-Canadian priest who returned to Belgium after being accused of molesting Inuit children in the ’80’s has been discovered by the Canadian justice system and in a recent interview a fellow monk laments that it’s a shame for the priest that this whole incident has stirred up his lurid past. Apparently the victims are more of an afterthought since the monks don’t know them.

So now we’ve finally gotten to the crux of my post: Catholic Belgians, how are you able to tolerate this kind of behavior from the church you believe in and the men who supposedly guide you spiritually and in worship? How do you find it acceptable that the church receives state funding and in return, openly covers up the abuse of children?

I mean, I come from a country of religious extremists so I don’t expect much from most people who claim loyalty to organized religion as far as the willingness to deviate from what is spoon fed to them in a sermon, but one of the things I’ve come to respect about most Belgians is rationality in the religio-political arena.

So what’s the story with you guys regarding this issue? Do the constantly growing number of rotten apples falling from the papal tree cause you to falter in supporting the church? If not, could you explain how or why this does or doesn’t effect your feelings regarding your faith?

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3 responses »

  1. I wish I knew the answer. I’m not Catholic, nor am I in Belgium, but we’ve been dealing with a lot of this in the states, even in Wisconsin where I live. It’s tough. I think what these men have done is horrible beyond any belief. They were in a position of authority and they abused it and they abused children. I’m horrified that the Catholic church does little to nothing to punish them or even try to prevent this behavior in the future.

  2. Your questions are “how are you able to tolerate this kind of behavior from the church you believe in and the men who supposedly guide you spiritually and in worship? How do you find it acceptable that the church receives state funding and in return, openly covers up the abuse of children?”

    what do you expect us to answer….that such a thing is tolerable or acceptable to us? of course it is not, it’s a crime.

    My faith is in the message of Jesus Christ and his message of love, justice and defence of the weak. My contacts with the Church are so that the enable me to celebrate sacraments & gather with fellow Christians. But as you stated, Belgians are quite rational & critical about the Church as an institute. Eg I went to a catholic school but we had a poster on the wall stating that the pope was a murderer , decorated with some condomns. Ok in all honesty we could only leave it on there for 2 weeks and then our teachers claimed they had understood our message and requested if it could be taken down.

    Nevertheless I know some young people personally that followed their vocation to become a priest, I have some young nuns as friends, I’ve often met priests on gatherings whom I learned to respect very much and of whome I don’t doubt for a second their open warm hearth and pure intentions and there involvement in society. So I find it quite disturbing to read beneath almost all online news articles on the subject comments on “all those dirty old men” without any nuanciation.

    That being said, I’ve also met Van Gheluwe in the past and I would have never thought such crimes from him. It truly disgusts me, upsets me and shocks me how we can have such a wrong opinion of people and trust the wrong people. It does make me more paranoia and makes you wonder how many other people you can/are misjudging.

    There cannot be any doubt that child abuse cannot be more in contradiction to our faith than much else. It’s a huge crime and should be treated as such without exception, whether the “institute” likes it or not. Their complaints seem totally irrelevant to me and to be ignored. Actually I would in fact expect that all proof of “neglect or failure to act to protect/help someone” (schuldig verzuim) is just as much a crime and should also be convicted for that. So any clergy where there’s proof that they’ve been aware of child abuse, could have taken action but failed to do so, should appear in court.

    The Church as institute is known to be unworldly & conservative and resistant to change. (and in previous decades child abuse was a rather society taboo as well). So unfortunately it’s not a total surprise to me to learn how inappropriate they’ve responded to complaints but that doesn’t make it right in any way.

    What I learned from the report of the commission Adriaens is how many years after victims are still traumatised in an incredible deep way which makes me think that legal periods of limitation on child abuse should be reviewed and prolonged. And then justice should take all these incidents at heart and clean out the clergy for as much as it is needed.
    I don’t get the press that keeps complaining about new commissions from the church going to be inadequate etc. Why do they still expect the church to be judge & concerned party at the same time after it has been proven that they are failing to do so? Somehow I see them inable to all of a sudden become adequate in taking swift & thourough measures…sadly enough. I’m afraid that an entire generation of old clergy cannot get a grip of reality anymore. I seriously pity the younger generation that needs to deal with it and sort it out from now one but that is at the same time still stuck in that rigid hierarchy. They’ll have to and I’m sure they want to . Call me naive but I do doubt that such things can still happen at such a scale as it seems to have been possible in the 60ies to 80ies. The report of the commission Adriaenssen seems to support that. The position of the Church in Flanders has already drastically changed, from a situation where priests run parishes, schools, hospitals, ….. up to a point where priests have become a rarity. Therefore I hope that the Church in Flanders will be forced to become very very humble.

    When I hear some of the bishops reactions about “forgiveness”, then I think that Jesus indeed has thought us to give forgiveness up to the extreme….but that should not be an excuse to cover own mistakes. They abuse these words. But they don’t seem to get that, do they?

    It’s like an ulcer that has been ripening underneath the surface and now it has burst out open. It’s very ugly , stinky but I guess it’s good that it’s burst open. Let now all the ugliness pour out all in the open, ….it’s the only way the church & our society will be able to start curing again. And the church might need to get some external pushes so I do hope our justice departments take part in thourough investigations and I also hope not all periods of limitation have passed.

    There’s currently a hype of people letting themselve to be “unbaptised”. This whole mess does not push me in that direction yet in case you wonder. I consider my baptism as a sacrament that makes me part of a community of followers of Jesus Christ and I don’t see how the crimes of too many affects that. My baptism only alienates me from all those who clearly were not followers of Jesus Christs.

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