National Catholic Reporter

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Belgian abuse story is eerily familiar



James Joyce famously described history as a nightmare from which his literary alter ego, Stephen Dedalus, was trying to awake. For the Catholic church today, there’s no need to await history; the present, defined by a massive worldwide sexual abuse crisis, is nightmare enough.

Recent events in Belgium are “news” only in the sense that they’re new to Belgians. For more than a decade, sex abuse scandals have devastated the church in other parts of the world, from the United States to Ireland and Germany, and raised hard questions about the corporate response of the Vatican and the personal history of Pope Benedict XVI.

Benedict's in a box in talking about the crisis



London -- By now, declarations of papal contrition for the sex abuse crisis, such as that uttered by Benedict XVI this morning in Westminster Cathedral on day three of his Sept. 16-19 trip to the United Kingdom, have become almost routine.

As always, it seems, familiarity breeds contempt. The pope’s critics are becoming increasingly acerbic in denouncing these words as hollow, while some of his friends are openly questioning the value of endless apologies.

The dilemma Benedict XVI will have to face is whether to keep talking about the crisis every time he travels, and if he does, how to do it in a way that’s constructive.

Read the full analysis: Benedict's in a box in talking about the crisis

Fraternity of the disgraced keeps growing



One decade ago, if astute observers had been asked to rate the best-connected political heavyweights among Catholic prelates, Cardinal Bernard Law of Boston would have been a popular choice. Archbishop Rembert Weakland of Milwaukee and Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Belgium would have done well in a poll of "most admired bishops among liberal Catholics," while Cardinal Darío Castrillón Hoyos of Colombia seemed a hot pick to be the first Latin American pope.

All four men seemed destined to be remembered as lions of their era. It's an object lesson in how quickly things can change, since today three have already become pariahs because of their roles in the sexual abuse crisis, while Danneels, now 77 and retired, is fighting to save his reputation from suffering the same fate.

Cardinal's lawyer gives context to leaked tapes


Media portrayals of retired Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels' meeting with a sex abuse victim, the victim's family and the abuser, Bishop Roger Vangheluwe of Brugge, Belgium, have not given a complete picture of what transpired, says the lawyer representing Cardinal Danneels.

To counter the misrepresentations in the media, Fernand Keuleneer, Danneels' attorney, issued the following statement Aug. 30:

About Cardinal Danneels' failed attempt at reconciliation within the Vangheluwe family

On Saturday August 28, the Belgian newspaper De Standaard committed a character assassination on Cardinal Godfried Danneels (77), the retired archbishop of Mechelen – Brussels. De Standaard published (a part only of) the transcript of the tapes which had been secretly recorded during a confidential, improvised and failed reconciliation attempt with the Vangheluwe family, which the Cardinal acquiesced to undertake on April 8, 2010, De Standaard put certain paragraphs in red and moreover added extremely biased commentary.

German bishops release sex abuse guidelines

BERLIN -- Officials and employees of Germany's Roman Catholic Church will be required to immediately report suspicions of child abuse to the police under new guidelines set to go into effect on Wednesday (Sept. 1), the German Bishops Conference announced.

The new guidelines are in response to a wave of scandal that washed over the church in the winter, as dozens of decades-old accusations of physical and sexual abuse of children came to light.

Catholic Biblical Association no longer accepting grant requests


WASHINGTON -- A brief notice in bold on its Web page for grants says it all: “The Catholic Biblical Association sincerely regrets that, owing to financial restraints beyond its control, it has to suspend any new grants as of now. We hope in the near future to reinstate these grants, which are an important part of our work.”

After bankruptcy, Iowa diocese raises $22 million

DAVENPORT, Iowa (CNS) -- Boosting morale in a diocese deeply wounded because of the abuse of children by some clergy in past decades, Catholics in the Davenport Diocese pledged $22 million in a capital campaign that succeeded despite the worst economic conditions in decades.

The campaign was the first in more than 20 years for the diocese and came at a time of rebuilding following bankruptcy.

Belgium cardinal tried to keep abuse victim quiet


BRUSSELS, BELGIUM -- Audio recordings leaked to the Belgian media this weekend reveal Belgium's Cardinal Godfried Danneels urging a sex abuse victim not to make public that his abuser was his uncle Bishop Roger Vangheluwe of Bruges, Belgium. The recordings show Danneels pressuring the young man not to force Vangheluwe to resign.

Vangheluwe eventually did resign April 23. He had served as bishop of Bruges for more than 25 years and was 73 years old.

A spokesman for Danneels told NCR that the cardinal did not comment about his meeting with the nephew and Vangheluwe, during an earlier press conference, because "he assumed that it was a confidential conversation to be kept within the family."

The spokesman said that Danneels "acted out of concern for the anonymity of the victim and now regrets that the conversation he considered confidential has been made public."



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January 29-February 11, 2016


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