Protests and demands for Archbishop Terlinden's resignation

Archdiocese of Brussels: Three abusers on electoral list for priests' council

Brussels - The diocese leadership speaks of an administrative error, but one that cannot be excused: The electoral list for a council of priests in the archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels also includes three perpetrators of abuse. There are calls among the faithful for consequences.

Published  on 15.05.2024 at 12:34  – 

The electoral list for a council of priests is causing protests and calls for Archbishop Luc Terlinden's resignation in the archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels. As Belgian media have reported in recent days, the list published last week also includes three known perpetrators of abuse. The committee, which is supposed to advise the archbishop, is one of three priests' councils in the archdiocese and covers its Flemish language area.

The matter was publicised by Rik Devillé, a well-known priest in Belgium who campaigns on behalf of those affected by abuse in the church. He spoke of a "disgrace" and called on Archbishop Terlinden to resign. Devillé said of the three priests: "One of them was taken to court and settlements were reached for the other two." The last settlement was only a few weeks ago.

Apology to the victims

The archdiocese spoke of an administrative error and pointed out that the lists for the priests' councils were automatically filled with all diocesan priests. However, this does not excuse the incident, said a spokesperson. "We apologise to all victims and all those who feel hurt by this." In a statement, Archbishop Terlinden emphasised that he is having the matter thoroughly investigated and will take steps to prevent such a situation from happening again. However, it is clear from Terlinden's statements that the archdiocese will not publish a new electoral list: "If priests known to the archdiocese for abuse are elected to the Flemish Brabant and Mechelen Priests' Council in the current elections, they will of course not be able to sit on the Priests' Council."

Criticism of the archdiocese and archbishop also came from the youth organisation "Youth Pastoral Flanders". In an open letter to Terlinden, seven representatives call for greater efforts by the church to come to terms with abuse and for far-reaching changes in the church. "The church's reaction gives the impression that this was a 'minor' administrative incident, a clumsy mistake. But for us it feels big, very big." A church that is still not on its guard when it comes to abuse "is not our church".

Luc Terlinden has been Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels and thus Primate of Belgium since June 2023. The country's church has been under pressure for years after numerous cases of abuse came to light. Since the broadcast of a TV documentary last autumn, the discussion about abuse in the church in Belgium has been reignited. (mal)