Hero to Zero?

News: World News
by Nicholas Wylie  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  October 4, 2022   

Accused bishop's background

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DILI, East Timor (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Nobel laureate bishop is the latest Church prelate accused of sexually assaulting young males. 

Bp. Carlos Ximenes Belo

Last week, Bp. Carlos Ximenes Belo was exposed in an investigation by the Dutch magazine De Groene Amsterdammer as allegedly abusing teenagers in Asia starting in the 1980s.

Belo served as titular bishop of Lorium and apostolic administrator of the diocese of Dili, East Timor, from 1988–2002.

The investigation claims Bp. Belo sexually assaulted teenage boys both before and during his time as the apostolic administrator. 

Bishop Lauded

Belo won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1996 for his resistance to the Indonesian regime that annexed and occupied East Timor from 1975–1999. He was seen as a hero by the people of East Timor for his courage in the face of danger and death threats.  

East Timor was freed from Indonesian control in 1999 but was under the governance of the United Nations until becoming fully independent in 2002.

According to the Noble Prize website

Shortly after being elected head of the Catholic church in East Timor in 1983, Carlos Belo openly denounced the brutal Indonesian occupation of the province. The occupiers responded by placing Belo under strict surveillance, but the bishop refused to be intimidated, even by numerous threats to his life.

The site notes he continued to speak up for nonviolent resistance to the oppression.

Allegations Surface

According to De Groene, the first allegations against Bishop Belo surfaced in 2002, the same year the bishop decided to resign. 

Pope John Paul II accepted Belo's resignation under canon 401, paragraph 2 of the Code of Canon Law, which states, "a diocesan bishop who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause is earnestly requested to present his resignation from office."

Belo cited poor health as his reason for retiring at 54, a full 21 years before the mandatory retirement age of a bishop. 

Critics speculate whether abuse allegations forced the prelate into early retirement and how many others in the Church may have known about the bishop's alleged predation.

News Report: East Timor's Former Hero

Two years later, Belo was serving as a missionary priest in Maputo, Mozambique, where he spent his time teaching catechism classes to children and putting on retreats for young people. 

After the Dutch exposé, the Vatican admitted to knowing no later than 2019 about allegations against Belo. 

Matteo Bruni — the director of the Vatican Press Office — told reporters: 

The Congregation for the Doctrine of [the] Faith was first involved in this case in 2019. In the light of the accusations it received concerning the bishop's behavior, in September 2020 the Congregation imposed certain disciplinary restrictions upon him. These included limitations to his movements and to the exercise of his ministry, the prohibition of voluntary contact with minors, of interviews and contacts with [the island country] Timor Leste. In November 2021 these measures were modified and reinforced. On both occasions, the measures were formally accepted by the bishop.

Many organizations, including the United Nations, are calling for a full investigation into the once-lauded bishop.

Stéphane Dujarric — a United Nations spokesman — commented to the Associated Press, "These allegations are truly shocking and need to be fully investigated."

Cause for Concern

Mike McDonnell — the communication manager for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (known as SNAP) — commented, "We learn from many allegations of sexual abuse against children that there are often more victims. In this tragedy, the Vatican set Belo free to have access to potentially more victims."

The Vatican set Belo free to have access to potentially more victims.

The Vatican's handling of the Bp. Belo ordeal is causing concern among faithful Catholics due to its lack of transparency. The Vatican is only now, three years later, revealing it knew of the prelate's possible scandal-ridden history and has yet to fully investigate the alleged crimes, even though it has placed restrictions on him. 

Critics are drawing comparisons between Belo and disgraced ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick, questioning if anything has changed in the last four years since the McCarrick bombshell and Pope Francis' claim of zero tolerance

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