Once again Belgium is in shock. Yesterday Professor Adriaenssens, the man who headed the committee that was established to collect and investigate instances of sexual abuse and pedophilia in the Catholic Church in Belgium, presented his report [pdf] and conclusions. The extent and degree of abuse that turns out to have been widespread, is horrifying. The Belgian Cardinal Danneels’s response to the report is entirely in character. This man will never change. His spokesman said that Cardinal Danneels “once again expresses sincere sympathy with the victims and their families for the suffering that they experienced…” and adds some platitudes about structures and institutions. Yet for decades he was responsible for the fact that complaints by the victims and their families were ignored. He made himself scarce whenever churchgoers who encountered abuses appealed to him.
In 1998 when I wished to discuss the content of the pedophile catechism manual Roeach that my children had to use at school, he employed his classic strategy: He made sure he knew nothing by avoiding any contact with the complaining party, and if they persevered he attempted to damage their credibility. In my case he repeatedly refused to receive a delegation of the hundreds of parents who stood at his door. In the press he questioned my motives and he sent others to reprimand me privately for being “disobedient” to the Church. Many parents came to me with accounts of similar experiences. Parents were fobbed off with vague comments and shush-shushing expressions of sympathy. Yet he was the one who should have conducted investigations and taken measures.
The rampant pedophilia and child abuse in the Belgian Church is not, as some say, caused by structural inadequacies, but by individuals who refused to assume their responsibility. Each teacher or head of a school, each parish priest, bishop or archbishop who refused to take remarks or complaints by parents seriously, who neglected to take measures in their school, parish or diocese, has contributed to the culture in which pedophiles could do as they pleased and destroy the lives of hundreds, thousands of children and their families.