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Tapes reignite Catholic sex abuse scandal

By Channel 4 News

Updated on 30 August 2010

Secret recordings reveal a senior figure in the Catholic church pleaded with a sex abuse victim to delay going public about his ordeal until the 73-year-old bishop who had abused him resigned, writes Jonathan Rugman.

Bishop Roger Vangheluwe of Bruges (REUTERS)

The self-confessed abuser was 73-year-old Bishop Roger Vangheluwe of Bruges (pictured right), who was forced to resign in disgrace earlier this year after his nephew accused him of abuse from the age of five to 18. 
But the apparent cover up goes even higher up the Catholic Church than that: to the Bishop's former boss, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, the ex-head of the Church in Belgium. He was secretly taped in April - before the Bishop resigned - urging the victim not to go public.

The tape was made by the abuse victim, now a 42-year-old man, who has said he made the recording to counter rumours apparently put about by the church that he had received hush money from his uncle to gain his silence.

The recording was made on 8 April and lasts for more than 18 minutes. In order to counter the charge that it has been selectively edited, the transcript was published in full in two Belgian Flemish newspapers over the weekend.

"The Bishop will resign next year, so actually it would be better for you to wait,"  the  Cardinal tells the victim, when they are discussing whether to go public on the abuse.

The victim replies: "No, I can't agree that he takes his leave in glory, I can't do that."

The Cardinal says: "I dont think you'd do yourself or him a favour by shouting this from the rooftops," before imploring the man not to drag the Bishop's "name through the mud".

"He has dragged my whole life through the mud, from five until 18 years old," counters the victim. "Why do you feel so sorry for him and not for me? You're always trying to defend him. I thought I was going to get some support, but I have to sit here and defend myself against things I can't do anything about."

The Cardinal's spokesman says he has been quoted selectively but a spokesman for his successor has said the transcript speaks for itself. Child abuse scandals have swept the Catholic church worldwide, but what makes this one different is that we have a verbatim transcript of a Cardinal's response.

Speaking not 10 years ago, but in April this year, and claiming in the tape that he has no authority over the offending Bishop, because authority, he says, rests with the Pope himself. This was just after Pope Benedict had apologised to victims of abuse in Ireland and when damning evidence of older cover-ups from Germany and the United States was coming to light through the press.

Pope begs forgiveness for priests' sex abuse 

The Pope's state visit to the UK on 16 September is already overshadowed by the abuse issue. Though figures suggest marginally more Catholics than Anglicans attend church on Sundays, many British Catholics have  been appalled by the stream of revelations and allegations worldwide. Lord Chris Patten, who has been put in charge of the Papal visit, has been quoted as saying that "the worst that could happen would be another paedophile scandal".

Pope Benedict will meet British victims of clerical abuse during his visit. The Church in England and Wales has apologised for past abuse and set in place independent monitoring of child protection, requiring all abuse cases to be reported to the police.

Channel 4 Documentary: Deliver Us from Evil 

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