The story first came to light when Vangheluwe resigned in April 2010: The victim was his own nephew, the abuse had begun when the child was five and had lasted 13 years. Vangheluwe vanished for several months into the abbey of Westvleteren, while the question of abuse by clergy led to raids on the archiepiscopal palace in Mechelen, the detention of the Papal nuncio, the seizure of Cardinal Godfried Danneels’ computer, and police breaking open two graves in the cathedral crypt in a search for evidence.
In the Vatican, meanwhile, the Pope asked the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to investigate the case. Belgium’s judicial authorities have concluded that Vangheluwe’s offences happened to long ago to be prosecuted. The report of a special parliamentary commission (Flanders Today, last week) recommended extending the statute of limitations on crimes of sexual abuse of children from the current 10 years to 15 years.