Belgian victims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests have decided to ignore offers of compensation from their local bishops and go ahead with legal proceedings against the Vatican itself.
Over the past year, police investigations have led to over 500 cases of alleged abuse being registered. Some cases go back several decades, making prosecution impossible, but this week the Belgian bishop’s conference said it was setting up a compensation commission for them.
“The Vatican has a huge responsibility in the damage that was caused to so many victims because they did not intervene when they got to know this kind of damage was made by so many priests. They did not do the right thing. There were also some instructions by the Pope that said that these things had to be silent and secret,” said Christine Mussche, lawyer for some 70 victims.
The Pope has diplomatic immunity but other Vatican officials and Belgian bishops will be summoned to testify. The move follows similar legal actions opened in the USA.