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16 June, 2024
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Pope defrocks Belgian bishop over sexual abuse allegations

Vatican takes action against bishop accused of decades-long abuse, amid criticism of Church's handling of scandals


Pope Francis took action against Roger Vangheluwe, the former Belgian bishop of Brugge, who admitted to sexually abusing his nephew but faced no Vatican punishment until now. The case underscores the Catholic Church's handling of abuse cases, as Vangheluwe was allowed to retire quietly after the scandal broke in 2010. The Vatican's announcement of Vangheluwe's laicization came shortly before Pope Francis' planned visit to Belgium, potentially avoiding a distraction during the trip.

Despite facing allegations of sexual abuse spanning over a decade, Vangheluwe was allowed to retire without further punishment, reflecting the Holy See's reluctance to sanction bishops for admitted sex crimes at the time. However, recent reports of new evidence prompted the Vatican to reopen the case, leading to Vangheluwe's laicization, the harshest punishment the Vatican can impose.

The belated action has drawn criticism, with some viewing it as a "PR stunt" ahead of Pope Francis' visit. Critics argue that it brings no justice to Vangheluwe's victims and fails to address systemic issues within the Catholic Church regarding sexual abuse. The scandal has prompted ongoing discussions in Belgium's parliament and shed light on the church's history of abuse.

Additionally, the article highlights another case involving a Belgian Salesian priest, Luk Delft, who was convicted of child sexual abuse and possession of child pornography in 2012. Despite knowledge of concerns about Delft's behavior, the Vatican's Caritas charity only removed him after media scrutiny. Delft was laicized in 2021, and his former superior, Luc Van Looy, was subsequently named a cardinal by Pope Francis, a decision criticized due to Van Looy's handling of abuse cases.

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