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After ‘Godforsaken’: Bishop Bonny wanted to resign if necessary to be able to assist victims

abuse in the church

Antwerp Bishop Johan Bonny has offered his resignation to the Pope after the broadcast of the TV program Godforgotten about sexual abuse in the church, “so that I can fully focus on supporting victims.” Bonny said this in a session of the House committee on the abuse.

“We are accused of a lack of responsibility, but we will take it now,” said Bonny. The bishop says he is overworked and wants to focus more on victim support. “I have sent a letter to the Pope asking for a redistribution of my ecclesiastical duties. If necessary, I would like to resign as bishop,” Bonny said in Terzake. The Pope has not yet responded to his letter.

The bishops are prepared to commit themselves, but do not want to reopen the settlements, he said. The Church does want to cooperate in a plan to further develop psychological support and make it financially more accessible to victims of abuse, also outside the Church. “We have no idea yet how that will work – via reimbursement of health notes, a fund, or a special group for victims.”

“Why only now?”

Yet the parliamentarians wondered why the Church is only now taking action. “Why only after the press has smelled something or when victims have had to sound the alarm?” said Valerie Van Peel (N-VA). “Debt default only starts the day you know something. I want to be held accountable for that, but how come people waited forty, fifty years before talking?” said Bonny. “You can only start a file if someone comes forward.”

“It seems as if there is a very efficient script for concealing abuse,” said Greet Daems (PVDA). Committee chairman Sophie De Wit (N-VA) also cited the “system of silence”, which emerged from the previous special committee.

Furthermore, the Roger Vangheluwe case was mentioned several times. The bishops reiterate that his ecclesiastical file is in Rome. “The remaining question is whether it can be laicized. Only the Holy See has the authority to do so,” Terlinden said. “I also share the shame that he still carries his title.” Daniel Senesael (PS) clarified that there must be “a strong gesture” from the Pope during his planned visit to Belgium.

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