Belgian Church admits years of sexual abuse by its clergy
THE Belgian Roman Catholic Church yesterday acknowledged widespread sexual abuse over years by its clergy and pleaded for time to set a system to punish all abusers and provide closure for victims.
The comments were in response to a report on Friday in which hundreds of sex abuse victims revealed harrowing accounts of molestation by Catholic clergy throughout the country over the past 50 years.
Belgium's Archbishop Andre-Mutien Leonard yesterday said "a feeling of anger and powerlessness" had taken hold of the Church.
"The report and the suffering it contains make us shiver," he said. And he warned that the crisis gripping the Church is so deep it would be impossible to find an easy way out.
"We want to draw the necessary lessons from the mistakes of the past," said the archbishop.
The report by an independent panel highlighted claims by surviving family members that at least 13 victims committed suicide as a result of the abuse by clergy. Hundreds more victims complained about trauma that plagued them, sometimes up to 50 years after the abuse.
It said there was abuse in each sector of the Church, especially at Catholic boarding schools, and throughout the nation. Most of the abuse happened during the 1960s and 1970s.
The archbishop said the Belgian Church was struggling with how to respond.
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