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Catholicism: Testing Times — In Belgium, UK …

  • September 15th, 2010
  • Posted by EUEditor

st-gilles-reduced1.jpgSoul searching and questioning continues among Catholics in a time of scandal within the fold and great change in the world at large – this week in Britain and in Belgium.

A poll of British Catholics ahead of a visit by the Pope this week (16-20.9.10) has expressed optimism about it, but high levels of concern about the Church in society.

“Overall there is a sense of strong support for the Pope’s visit but disquiet both about some aspects of Papal teaching, and the perception of the Catholic Church in wider society having been harmed”, said Andrew Hawkins, Chairman of the ComRes organisation which conducted he survey of 500 Catholics.

It was commissioned by the BBC which outlined the main results:

Almost 70% of British Catholics expect the Pope’s visit to help the Catholic Church in the UK … but the survey suggests they are less keen about some of his teaching.

Half of those questioned felt priests should no longer have to be celibate.

And 52% … said the sex abuse scandal had shaken their faith in the Church’s leadership.

Two-thirds also thought women should have more authority and status within the Church.


An inquiry carried out for the Church in Belgium, into child sexual abuse, has found some 300 cases of alleged abuse by clergy, teachers in Church schools and other lay workers, going back to the 1960s.

The investigator, a psychiatrist, Peter Adriaenssens, said abuse had been found in nearly every diocese of the mostly Catholic country; most of the cases involved boys but there were cases also of young girls being raped.

Thirteen had committed suicide following abuse.

On Saturday  the former Bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, who resigned in April saying he had sexually exploited his own nephew, declared on Saturday he was going to live in a secluded place,

He said he would move on from the Abbey of Westvleteren, in Western Flanders, where he had been given temporary shelter, but would remain a priest.

In a statement read out by a Church spokesperson, he recounted his resignation: “I said that I was dreadfully sorry for what I had done in the past; I asked for forgiveness and offered my apologies to the victim, his family and the church community.”


Church leaders in Belgium immediately endorsed the Adriaenssens report (14.9.10), issuing an apology and assurances that offenders would be turned over to civil authorities; a matter the police already have much in hand, following raids on Church properties.

Victims’ groups said they appreciated the action taken by the Church, but remained disaffected on some key points; for example, demanding that the errant Bishop Vangheluwe, far from being allowed to find safe haven, should be cast out, or at least defrocked as a priest.


BBC World Service, London, “UK Catholics ‘think Pope visit will help Church’”, 12.9.10., (12.9.10).

Flanders News, Brussels, “Disgraced former Bishop to ‘secret location’”, 11.9.10., (12.9.10).


Parish Church of St Giles, Brussels.