Posts Tagged “belgium”

Jesus wept. (Jn 11:35)Not only does the Roman Catholic Church have pedophiles in its ranks — as most people now realize, even if at one time they preferred not to — but it also has unrepentant pedophiles-in-denial in its ranks. Time magazine reports on a Belgian bishop who admitted to molesting his nephews but who insists he’s not a pedophile and says it was just a game (WebCite cached article):

The Belgian Catholic Church must have felt it hit a nadir last year when it had to face harrowing revelations of rampant child sex abuse among its priesthood. However, the church’s reputation is now at a new low, thanks to the ill-judged comments of the disgraced former Bishop of Bruges, who in April 2010 admitted to abusing his nephew. Belgians have been left in open-mouthed disbelief after the airing of a TV interview with Roger Vangheluwe in which he glossed over his history of abusing children.

Speaking on Belgian television on Thursday evening, April 14, Vangheluwe, 74, said he had in fact abused a second nephew as well. That would have been shocking enough: last year, when Vangheluwe initially owned up to the abuse — and stepped down as bishop — the move unleashed a flood of revelations by other victims of abuse in the church.

The former bishop downplayed what he did:

But it was no tearful confession that Belgians witnessed on Thursday. Looking relaxed and sometimes smiling, Vangheluwe described the sexual abuse as no more than “a little piece of intimacy.” While he claimed to recognize that he had done wrong and said he often went to confession about it, Vangheluwe played down his actions. “I had the strong impression that my nephew didn’t mind at all. On the contrary. It was not brutal sex. I never used bodily, physical violence,” he said.

Ah. I see. So in the ex-bishop’s mind, sex with minors is just fine, so long as it’s not violent. OK. Got it. I don’t agree, of course … nor do most of the world’s legal systems … but I got it.

Other Belgian bishops, to their credit, condemned Vangheluwe’s downplaying of his immorality and criminality, yet the ex-bishop remains a priest in good standing in the Church, and there is no known effort underway to defrock him. The Vatican seems happy to continue calling him one of its own.

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: Beliefnet.

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Cathedral in BruggeThe Roman Catholic clerical child abuse scandal, unfortunately, refuses to go away. Nor — given the nature of the crimes committed, compounded by the many long decades of time during which they happened — should it. A report by a pedophilia expert in Belgium makes clear how extensive and enduring the child abuse was, as reported by the (UK) Guardian (WebCite cached article):

Some of the most damning evidence of systematic child abuse by the Roman Catholic clergy to come to light was unveiled today by Belgium’s leading authority on paedophilia, who published hundreds of pages of harrowing victim testimony detailing their traumas and suffering.

The explosive report by Peter Adriaenssens in the town of Louvain, east of Brussels, lists evidence of 476 instances of child abuse by priests and bishops going back 50 years.

What’s truly remarkable here is that this report was not the product of a government investigation, nor was it done by victims’ advocates. It was, instead, the Catholic Church’s own doing:

Adriaenssens was appointed by the church last year to head an independent inquiry into the scandal. Since April, when Roger Vangheluwe, the bishop of Bruges, resigned after admitting persistently molesting a nephew, the Adriaenssens commission has been inundated with evidence, with hundreds of victims coming forward.

He has since documented cases of abuse occurring in almost every diocese in the country and in virtually every school run by the church. “We can say that no part of the country escapes sexual abuse of minors by one or several [church] members,” said Adriaenssens.

“This is the church’s Dutroux dossier,” he added in reference to the notorious Belgian paedophile serial killer, Marc Dutroux, who kidnapped, tortured, abused and murdered six girls in 1995-6.

The extent of the damage caused by this systemic abuse is apparent:

Speaking of the victims, Adriaenssens said that 13 had killed themselves, according to relatives, and another six had attempted suicide.

13 suicide victims and 6 attempted suicides may not sound like a lot, but any life ruined by, or lost to, the abuse, is one too many. This abuse is not of recent vintage, either:

The abuse went back to the 1950s, was most common in the 60s and was tailing off by the 1980s, Adriaenssens said.

“The exposed cases are old, of course,” he said. “Society has developed. But there’s nothing to indicate that the number of paedophiles has diminished. Where are they today?”

Adriaenssens asks a very good question: Where are the abusers within the ranks of Catholic clergy? No one knows. The Roman Catholic Church continues with “business as usual” and continues to resist being held accountable, either for the actions of the individual priest-abusers, or for the bishops and other hierarchs who covered for them, shielded them from prosecution and lawsuits, and held onto them in spite of the abuse they were guilty of.

Hat Tip: Peter at the Antibible Project Forum (on Delphi Forums)

Photo credit: 8ran.

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IMG_3802.JPGI think I’ve been too lenient on the Roman Catholic Church, over the past couple weeks. I posted just a little while ago that it seemed the Pope might have been just a little more contrite about the clerical child abuse scandal that’s plagued his institution for the past 10 years or so and has reached full-boil since late last year. Clearly, I underestimated the R.C. Church’s hypocrisy. You see, a couple weeks ago, Belgian authorities raided Church facilities looking for documentation concerning this scandal within their country. The Vatican responded by throwing a tantrum. Der Spiegel reports on the raid and the Church’s furious reaction (WebCite cached article):

But now that secular investigators have decided to take action, [Pope Benedict XVI] has condemned the “surprising and regretful” circumstances of the Belgian raid. In a message of solidarity with the bishops in Belgium, Benedict argued in favor of cooperating with the secular justice system, but he insisted on the church’s right to conduct internal investigations.

Benedict’s allies in Rome wasted no time in ensuring that relations between the Catholic Church and the secular world took another turn for the worse. The Italian bishops’ newspaper Avvenire sees the desecration of the graves as a “brutal act that strikes right at the heart of the church.” Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone — the second most powerful man in the Vatican — expressed outrage at the fact that it was possible to hold venerable bishops for so long without food or drink, “as if they were children.” Not even under communism were church officials treated as poorly, he said.

Essentially, then, the Church has reasserted that it is above the law of the land in all the countries in which it operates … a principle which it had asserted in the Middle Ages, often successfully, but which over the centuries — especially after the Reformation — it had been forced to concede.

Apparently, that all went out the window, when Belgian authorities decided to investigate the R.C. Church as it would have any other institution that may have victimized Belgians. That can’t be permitted, in the eyes of the Vatican.

But while the Church rages and fumes and stamps its feet that it’s being investigated by secular authorities over accusations that it may have victimized people, the Church has a completely opposite view of secular authorities, when it is a possible victim of a crime. The archdiocese of Hartford, here in Connecticut, called on the state to investigate and prosecute a priest who may have embezzled money from the Church, as the Hartford Courant reports (cached):

A well-known Roman Catholic priest who stole $1.3 million from the Sacred Heart parish over seven years said he “had grown to hate being a priest” because the Archdiocese had given him the “worst church assignments” where he would “have to fix problems made by the previous priests,” according to his arrest warrant. …

Waterbury [CT] police launched an investigation after the archdiocese came to them May 27 and said it had uncovered unauthorized payments from church funds to accounts held by Gray and other suspicious transactions, according to the affidavit, which was prepared by Waterbury Police Detective Peter Morgan.

So the Roman Catholic Church is more than happy to ask those evil “secular authorities” to help them out when they need it … but not willing to cooperate with them when their own misdeeds are being reviewed.

I can only think of four words to describe this: Hip. Oc. Rih. See. You know … the tendency to say one thing but do another? You know, that all-too-common human compulsion, which the founder of the Church’s own religion — Jesus Christ — himself, in the flesh, and in clear, unambiguous terms, specifically ordered his followers never, ever to engage in? Yeah. That “hypocrisy.”

Is anyone now not clear on what a festering sewer full of assorted putrid vermin the Vatican is?

Photo credit: Homini:).

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By now you must have heard the story of Rom Houben, the poor man injured some 23 years ago, who — it turns out — was misdiagnosed all those years as being in a vegetative state, but who in fact was wide awake but simply unable to communicate. The Associated Press, CBS News, the (UK) Telegraph, NPR, CNN, and even Al Jazeera — among thousands of mass media outlets — have all reported this amazing story. How could it have happened, people have have been asking? How could the doctors have been so stupid or inattentive? How did they miss this? The talking heads have pontificated endlessly on how and why no one ever bothered to review poor Mr Houben’s condition or reassess his status.

There’s only one problem with all of this. The story, it turns out, may be fraudulent.

That’s right … this story which has transfixed the world for the last couple of days … may be a hoax.

To parrot the question being asked of Mr Houben’s doctors … “How could this happen? How could thousands of media outlets have been swindled?” Well, Wired magazine explains this astonishing story:

The statements of a Belgian man believed to be in a coma for 23 years, but recently discovered to be conscious, are poignant, but experts say they may not be his words at all.

Rom Houben’s account of his ordeal, repeated in scores of news stories since appearing Saturday in Der Spiegel, appears to be delivered with assistance from an aide who helps guide his finger to letters on a flat computer keyboard. Called “facilitated communication,” that technique has been widely discredited, and is not considered scientifically valid. …

Facilitated communication came to prominence in the late 1970s after an Australian teacher reportedly used it to communicate with 12 children rendered speechless by cerebral palsy and other disorders. …

Researchers said that facilitators were unconsciously or consciously guiding patients’ hands. Multiple professional organizations, including the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and the American Academy of Pediatrics, say that facilitated communication is not credible.

It was James “the Amazing” Randi who first raised the specter of fraud in this story, and who is quoted in the Wired piece:

“I believe that he is sentient. They’ve shown that with MRI scans,” said James Randi, a prominent skeptic who during the 1990s investigated the use of facilitated communication for autistic children. But in the video, “You see this woman who’s not only holding his hand, but what she’s doing is directing his fingers and looking directly at the keyboard. She’s pressing down on the keyboard, pressing messages for him. He has nothing to do with it.”

According to Randi, facilitated communication could only be considered credible if the facilitator didn’t look at the keyboard or screen while supporting Houben’s hand, and helped him type messages in response to questions she had not heard, thus ensuring that Houben’s responses are entirely his own.

Randi is absolutely correct when he said, “This cruel farce has to stop!” Now that the cat is out of the bag, as it were, it’s time for all those thousands of media outlets who picked up and parroted this story, to retract it, admit the account they reported was fraudulent (not that they were being fraudulent, but rather that the people who fed them the story had presented them a lie), and explain how they allowed themselves to be swindled.

This is a case of disingenuous “facilitated communication,” nothing more. And it’s time for the mass media to stop propagating it … immediately.

This story has even become political fodder for the Religious Right, especially those who still remember the Terri Schiavo case and who sanctimoniously refuse to let go of it. It’s even being used to whine and complain and fume about “Obamacare,” even though neither Barack Obama nor “socialized medicine” had the slightest thing to do with this hoax.

Curiously, I suspect the mass media do not, in fact, have the integrity or fortitude it would take to admit this was a hoax, take back these reports, and explain how they were deceived. Then again, they might surprise me. At least one talking head at MSNBC is expressing doubts. Let’s hope more media figures do the same.

Hat tip: The Skeptic’s Dictionary.

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