Cardinal Godfried Daneels has said that the Catholic Church in Belgium must “look its dark side in the eyes” and renounce a mentality which thinks more about itself and not about victims of sexual abuse.
Cardinal Daneels, the retired Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, on Dec. 21 addressed a parliamentary panel investigating priests’ sexual abuse of children. He said the Church should move away from an arrogant age of “class mentality,” the Associated Press reports.
It was once impossible for an abused child to tell his or her parents that a priest was the culprit, the cardinal said.
“There was a compulsion of conscience among parents to protect the priest,” he continued. "The time has gone that children would be given an additional smack by parents when they said something wrong about someone with authority -- because a priest, or a teacher, was always right."
The treatment of sexuality in church circles can lead to “hypocrisy,” he continued. This can only be countered by openness and transparency.
The cardinal declared an end to the time when abusive priests were “untouchable” and could “enforce silence.”
Earlier this year, a Belgian bishop was forced to resign after years of abusing his nephew. Over 500 witnesses have come forward to charge Catholic clergy with molestation in incidents ranging over a period of decades.