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Belgium church spokesman resigns in protest

William Crawley | 23:20 UK time, Wednesday, 3 November 2010

The word "unprecedented" is too-often used by journalists, but it does seem remarkably apt in describing what's just happened in Belgium. The spokesman for the leader of Belgium's Catholics has resigned because he can no longer, in good conscience, represent the views of his boss in response to the child abuse crisis currently facing the Catholic Church. In his resignation statement, Jürgen Mettepenningen, pictured, who was a professional theologian before becoming Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard's spokesman in August, said: "I no longer want, can and will act as spokesman for Archbishop Leonard." He later told reporters that the Archbishop's attitude to the abuse crisis was "surrealist" and said: "Archbishop Léonard has sometimes acted like someone who's driving against the traffic and thinks everyone else is wrong."

Read the story in full here.


  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    Maybe whoever's in charge of child protection in the Free Presbyterian Church will resign as well.

    Oh wait, there isn't anyone.

  • Comment number 3.

    'prosecuting retired priests on charges of sexual abuse of minors was “a kind of vengeance” on men no longer in pastoral work.'

    It would not be easy working for someone who holds a perverse view like this. To his great credit Mettepenninggen has resigned, but how many other Archbishops hold equally repellent views?

    Archbishop Leonard appears to live in a world where the rights of children count for little and where paedophiles should go unpunished. Once again survivors of clerical sex abuse have been kicked in the teeth by a senior Catholic cleric, as it were. What would Leonard prefer - that journalists just went away and everyone just prayed?

  • Comment number 4.

    Thank you, Newlach, for your reference to Leonard's worrisome statement regarding old pedophile priests. Leonard's equally offensive statement re AIDS and intrinsic justice has provoked international outrage and a law suit. Victims of cleric sexual abuse do not (yet) have this strong international advocacy.
    But there has been progress. Today,I am encouraged by Jurgen Mettepenningen's resignation and strong denouncement of Leonard's views and arrogant manner. I am encouraged by the statements of non-support of Leonard made by other Belgian bishops, in recent days.
    Their actions make me hopeful that the extradition (from Belgium to Canada) of a Belgian-born Oblate, Eric Dejaeger, will soon proceed. He is wanted in northern Canada. For the past 10 years Dejaeger has been on Interpol's Most wanted List for sex crimes against (Inuit) children. He has already served time in prison for abusing Inuit children and he is now charged with additional crimes. He fits Leonard's definition of elderly paedophile priest. Leonard is just stating what many feel: accountability is a nuisance. Well, Thanks to Leonard, the profile of paedophile priests has just increased. Maybe it will help our struggle in Canada's north.

  • Comment number 5.


    The guy who resigned was a spokesman, a communications guru (an Alistair Campbell if you like) not a child protection officer. If you are going to engage in deflection you might try to stand in front of the target.

  • Comment number 6.

    Interesting that European Union President Herman Van Rompuy, believes the Catholic Church is ready for reformation. Many Catholics around the world would probably agree, escpecially in Europe and North America.

    A commenter to the Reuters blog mentions how The Vatican should be stripped of its statehood, so the Pope no longer has immunity from prosecution, all records can be reviewed and priests who are guilty of abuse can be stripped of their priesthood and jailed. To expect the church to do things properly themselves has shown to be useless because they're far removed from being run on democratic lines

  • Comment number 7.

    John Allen is a journalist who comments frequently on Vatican affairs likes to present himself as balanced and fair. However, he recently wrote a piece for NCR commenting on Ratzingers recent appointment on new Cardinals.

    Allen comments that the fact that Archbishop Leonard was 'overlooked' in this latest series of appointments just goes to show that Ratzinger is not in fact attempting to 'load the deck' with arch-conservatives.

    In actual fact, Leonard was overlooked because he is a liability. Had he been appointed Cardinal, he would have been the best advert for the need to implement Vat II Council since Ratzinger was made head of the CDF.

    1yellowknife - Dont give up hope. The mills of God grind slowly but surely....

  • Comment number 8.

    Most people, excluding the church, think the church needs reforming.

  • Comment number 9.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.

    Leonard may have been bypassed in the Pope's list of new Cardinals, but Archbishop Burke from the United States wasnt. As you'll see from the link, another real Prince of the Church.


  • Comment number 12.

    Dave - is that why the word "spokesman" is used three times in the story as well as the headline? Do you think I can't read?

    Burke's a great bishop and will be a real asset as cardinal.

  • Comment number 13.

    "Burke's a great Bishop and will be a real asset as cardinal."

    We will all take your word for it, will we?

    Cardinal Cormac Murphy O'Connor would appear to disagree with you - he stopped him from 'performing' at Westminster after the Latin Mass Society invited him.

    And 30 grand for for a set of vestments is not really very Christ-like, or is my bible missing a few pages?

  • Comment number 14.

    Thanks for sharing the photos, Jellyboy; lovely. Who are the guys in blue?

    Think I'll take Burke over MO'C

  • Comment number 15.

    mccamleyc, maybe you should follow the example of Rev Norman Hamilton instead, rather than your catholic heirachy. Their arrogance and rudeness seems to have filtered down quite nicely to you ;)

  • Comment number 16.

    You can obviously read but maybe you ought to try thinking instead of blindly defending.

  • Comment number 17.

    Dave, I didn't defend anything or anybody; I merely referred to the fact that the Free Prebsyterian Church have refrained from taking the sort of "child protection" measures employed by the Church and yet for the media there is still only one story as it suits their wider agenda.


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