15 February 2024, The Tablet

Vatican asks Belgian Church for new dossier on abuser bishop

Belgium’s justice minister said he would send the Vatican pornographic images found on Roger Vangheluwe’s computer to add to the case against him.

Vatican asks Belgian Church for new dossier on abuser bishop

The Flemish actor Kwinten Van Heden in the 2018 play Crux, based on the Vangheluwe scandal.
Christophe Ketels / Alamy

The Vatican has asked Belgium’s bishops to provide a new dossier on accusations against the former Bishop of Bruges Roger Vangheluwe, following their repeated requests that Rome laicise him.

Vangheluwe stepped down in 2010 at 73 after admitting he had molested his own nephew, and later confirmed he had also abused another nephew. The scandal also damaged the reputation of the late Cardinal Godfried Danneels, who covered up for Vangheluwe.

Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp revealed last September that Belgian bishops had pleaded with Vangheluwe, now 87, to quit the priesthood and even asked the Vatican to laicise him. This came shortly after it emerged that Vangheluwe had written to Rome, but he refused to reveal what he said in his letter.

The apostolic nuncio to Belgium, Archbishop Franco Coppola, said he assumes the disgraced bishop did not ask to be laicised in his correspondence. 

“Normally, this request [for laicisation] would have been approved and published within two months,” he said, according to the Belga agency.

Belgium’s justice minister Paul Van Togchelt said Brussels was ready to send the Vatican pornographic images investigators had found on Vangheluwe’s computer to add to the case. Het Laatste Nieuws reported that Rome would expect a further dossier on Vangheluwe to contain new allegations.

Now living in a French monastery, Vangheluwe denies being a paedophile despite admitting to molesting his two young nephews.   

His scandal attracted renewed attention after Flemish television broadcast the mini-series Gotvergeten (Forgotten by God) last September about abuse and cover-ups in the Belgian Church. A Church-run hot line for sexual abuse has registered roughly 200 complaints since the broadcast.  

Belgian politicians have begun their own investigations into the Church abuse scandal and some have asked whether the state should stop providing subsidies to the Church.

This threatens to overshadow a planned visit to Belgium by Pope Francis, due to attend the six-hundredth anniversary of the Catholic University of Leuven. “We pay too little attention to the nice aspects of the Church,” its Rector Luc Sels said.

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