VATICAN CITY, APRIL 13, 2011 (Zenit.org).- The former bishop of Bruges, Belgium, Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, who resigned after admitting to sexually abusing a minor, will undergo spiritual and psychological counseling at the request of the Vatican.
In a statement publicized Tuesday, Jesuit Father Federico Lombardi, director of the Vatican press office, explained, “In view of the proceedings against Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, ex-bishop of Bruges, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith — as already communicated to the nunciature in Belgium — has requested that he leave Belgium and undergo a period of spiritual and psychological counseling.”
The statement added that throughout this period of treatment, Bishop Vangheluwe “will of course be forbidden from publicly exercising his priestly or episcopal ministry.”
This decision follows shortly after the Bruges prosecutor, Jean-Marie Berkvens, announced on April 4 that the case was to be filed as the offense took place too long ago for the legal prosecution of the bishop.
Benedict XVI immediately accepted the resignation of the prelate on April 23, 2010, after the bishop admitted to sexually abusing a minor over a period of time during his priesthood and at the beginning of his episcopate. The victim, who is currently 43 years old, was abused between 1973 and 1986.
Bishop Vangheluwe was removed from the Bruges Diocese shortly after his resignation last year. At that point, Father Lombardi noted that the Pope would make any further decisions about sanctions on the prelate after taking “time to be informed and to reflect.”
In Tuesday’s statement, the Vatican spokesman noted, “The psychological treatment has been decided upon by the congregation to enable further diagnostic and prognostic information to be gathered in order to continue and conclude the proceedings with a definitive decision, which shall remain the competence of the congregation, to be approved by the Holy Father.”
Father Lombardi continued: “This decision will of course take into account the various aspects of the matter, above all the suffering of the victims and the exigencies of justice.
“The proceedings are therefore still in progress and the decision made by the congregation is of an interlocutory nature and not definitive.”
Last September, the Belgian bishops announced plans for a center of “recognition, reconciliation and healing” for abuse victims.