Hundreds of children abused by Belgian clergy
A report published by a Belgian commission has revealed 475 cases of alleged sexual abuse of minors by Catholic clergy, in nearly every congregation in the country.
The commission said it had received all complaints in the first six months of this year. Most were related to paedophilia allegations committed in the 1950s through to the late 1980s by Catholic clergy, but also by teachers of religion and adults working with youth movements.
Most of the sexual abuse was carried out on victims from the age of 12, although one was just two-years-old. Another five were aged four, eight aged five and ten aged seven.
The commission, headed by a psychiatric specialist in paedophilia, Peter Adriaenssens, said it received most of its testimony after the forced resignation in April of the Bishop of
Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe. He admitted sexually abusing his nephew between 1973 and 1986.
All 320 alleged perpetrators were male, but it is unclear how many of them are still alive today.
Two-thirds of the alleged victims were male.
At least 13 people are said to have committed suicide linked to trauma caused by the abuse, while six reported suicide attempts.
One man said he went from being an abused child to a child abuser. He is now serving an eight-year prison sentence without parole.
A woman in the report said that she was abused at age 17 by a priest and tried to seek help from a bishop in 1983 who failed to offer any support.
The commission concluded that the victims deserved "a courageous Church which is not afraid to confront its vulnerability, to recognise it, to cooperate in finding fair responses."
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