By Erwin Wolff
The lamentable situation in Belgium continues unabated. In October 2014, a priest accused of sexually abusing a minor was appointed priest for the town of Middelkerke, in the Bruges diocese, raising a public outcry. The matter was resolved only by the man's refusal to accept the appointment — but the bishop responsible for appointing him— Jozef de Kesel — never apologized for the mishap.
On November 6, 2015, that same bishop was announced as the new archbishop of Brussels, replacing orthodox appointment Abp. André-Joseph Léonard, who had reached the age of 75, with its mandatory letter of resignation.
As spokesman for Pro Familia, a pro-life apostolate based in Belgium, we believe the new appointment of Abp. Jozef de Kesel is a grave mistake.
December 12 was the installation date for the new archbishop of the Mechelen-Brussels archdiocese. The ceremony in the Mechelen cathedral was attended by leading figures, including the Catholic king and queen of Belgium, as well as the man considered the unofficial "boss" of the Belgian Church — Koen Geens, head of the Belgian Department of Justice, who pays the salaries of all the Catholic bishops and priests in the country.
Also present was Jan Peumans, a self-proclaimed Buddhist and the head of the Flemish parliament, as well as Mechelen mayor Bart Somers and Siegfried Bracke, head of the Belgian federal parliament. The latter two are self-proclaimed Freemasons. Of the 250 official guests, most were on the state's payroll.
A gathering of Pro Familia supporters rallied outside the cathedral, braving the December weather to protest the inaction and negligence by the hierarchy in confronting the clerical sex abuse scandal for which the Belgian Catholic Church has grown infamous. And we are not alone in this struggle.
In April 2015, five years after Bruges bishop Roger Vangheluwe resigned in disgrace after admitting he had sexually abused his young nephew, a priest named Igor de Blicquy wrote a public letter complaining that nothing had really changed in the diocese and that the same culture of cover-up still existed under de Kesel's tenure.
Like fellow Belgian bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp, de Kesel is known to be gay-friendly. His lack of action confronting sex-abusing priests once merited his being called before Parliament. And de Kesel has a history of protecting sex-abusing priests, including Frs. Antoon Stragier, Tom Flamez and Jeroen Claerhout. The last one, Claerhout, caused a stir the Sunday before de Kesel's installation Mass, as Claerhout sang in a choir at the goodbye service for de Kesel's departure from Bruges — in spite of the fact that Claerhout is officially suspended from the priesthood as he awaits trial. The conductor "could not see the problem of his singing along."
A man named Koen Vanhoutte, rumored to be a shadow bishop, is believed to be the one who actually makes all the decisions in de Kesel's former diocese, de Kesel seens as merely a puppet of the very circles that made the Belgian Church notorious for its sex abuse scandals.
Pro Familia's protest outside the cathedral of Mechelen was meant to add a much-needed counterweight to the complacency of the ruling elite in the Church. In the meantime, because the Belgian Church is dying, with very few young people at Mass, and certainly no organized progressive Catholic youth, this age of left-liberal Catholicism is dying off, and will likely cease to exist within 10 to 15 years at most.
Even so, the damage is complete. The left-liberals are on course to do a Samson-like act on the Church, aiming to bring the whole structure down on top of their heads to ensure nobody else will inherit it. Because of the cover-up culture inside the Belgian Church, we have likely not seen the last of the abuse cases.
But there is also good news. Faithful pro-family groups like Pro Familia are getting more attention and praise. Recently, a Washington D.C.-based canon law expert, Kurt Martens, a Belgian, publicly supported our claim that the appointment of Jozef de Kesel is a mistake.
Martens asked in an opinion article how it's possible that the bishop of Bruges and his right-hand man Koen Vanhoutte were able to remain in office during their tenure there. De Kesel's appointment of a sex-abusing priest proves that the diocese of Bruges still seems to have more sympathy for perpetrators of sexual abuse than for victims. "They obviously have still not understood what empathy means," Martens wrote.
Even more, Martens believes an investigation should be launched into the affairs of the Bruges diocese. "Maybe Pope Francis should intervene by sending an apostolic visitator to research the situation thoroughly." We agree.