Archbishop Lucas van Looy refuses to honor Pope Francis as a cardinal because of ill-treatment

Placeholder while loading article actions


An earlier version of this story stated that the Diocese of Ghent did not intervene to stop the activities of an accused priest in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ghent. Bishop-Accountability says Bishop Lucas van Looy notified civil authorities in 2014.

When Pope Francis announced in May his intention to create 21 new cardinals, one name emerged for a group of advocates of abuse from the clergy in Belgium: Lucas van Loy. After facing weeks of pressure over his record of dealing with abuse cases, the now would-be cardinal asked Francis not to receive the honor – a request so unusual that before the pope.

The Belgian Bishops’ Conference said Van Looy’s request was made “to prevent the victims of such abuses from being harmed again”.

For a church bruised by years of abuse scandals, the episode demonstrated the far-reaching repercussions that can come after a church leader’s association with mishandling cases. It also raises questions about the Vatican’s process of vetting the records of individuals whom Francis chose to become cardinals – a position that would imply good service to the Church for life.

Why the Vatican continues to struggle with sexual assault scandals

“Everyone in Belgium was aware of this,” said Liv Halsberge, an advocate for victims of religious abuse in the country. She emphasized that Van Looy’s request “did not come from his conscience. It came because there were protests by a rights group.”

The Vatican did not provide a statement of its own on the matter, and its spokesman did not respond to a request for comment.

The Belgian Bishops’ Conference said Francis’s initial decision to appoint Van Lowe Cardinal had elicited “many positive reactions”. But there was also criticism, and Conference said“from the fact that he did not always react actively enough” against “abuses in the pastoral relationship” during his tenure as Bishop of Ghent from 2003 until 2019.

Van Looy was one of 21 Francis selected for this honor, a move that will be formalized – for the other twenty – during a constituency in August. Even if Van Lowe were to become a cardinal, he would not be able to participate in any future secret meeting as a result of his age, 80 (only cardinals younger than 80 could help choose the next pope).

The Belgian Bishop’s Conference did not provide details of any allegations of wrongdoing by Van Looy.

However, his name appeared in several previous news reports. It was listed on the site Bishop-Accountability.orgclearinghouse for written abuse information, on a A page dedicated to bishops who mishandled cases. The site mentions a predatory Belgian priest accused of abuses in both the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Ghent.

Van Looy was not leading the Diocese of Ghent when the accusations first came to light, but after he became a bishop, the diocese sent the Congolese victim $25,000 in 2005. However, he did not step in to notify civil authorities of the priest’s ongoing activities — Bishop-Accountability said in a statement Friday that Working in a non-profit organization helping orphans from the Rwandan genocide – until 2014.

Although Van Lowe has personally spoken out about the cruelty of the abuses, describing the “inhuman suffering” of the victims, he also admitted not notifying the justice authorities of six letters he received relating to the cases, according to Belgian media account from 2010. Van Lowe described the letters as “less urgent” because the accusations concerned retired priests.

Van Looy is part of the Salesian Don Bosco religious order. Salesians Belgium was implicated in a scandal arising from the year 2019 CNN investigation To a Belgian priest, convicted of abuse at the Ghent court, then sent to the Central African Republic, where he was again accused of abuse.

Belgium faced a tsunami of devastating discoveries of abuse, many of which surfaced in 2010, in what leaders described as one of the most difficult crises in the history of the Catholic Church in Belgium. a Report Released in 2010, it described hundreds of cases over five decades and noted that 13 victims had been forced to commit suicide in the aftermath of trauma.