Bel­gian ac­tivist priest ad­mits sex­ual abuse

The Pak Banker - - 6i Nternational -

BRUS­SELS: A Bel­gian priest has con­fessed to a child sex-abuse ac­cu­sa­tion that came to light dur­ing a cam­paign to nom­i­nate him for the No­bel Peace Prize for his work fight­ing glob­al­iza­tion's im­pact on de­vel­op­ing coun­tries.

The con­fes­sion was pub­lished in a Bel­gian news­pa­per Wed­nes­day and con­firmed by the or­ga­ni­za­tion the priest founded, deep­en­ing a sex-abuse scan­dal that has rocked the Catholic Church in the coun­try. Af­ter a spate of ac­cu­sa­tions this year, the church in Septem­ber pub­lished the har­row­ing ac­counts of more than 100 vic­tims of cler­i­cal sex abuse, some as young as two when they were as­saulted.

In Oc­to­ber, af­ter sup­port­ers of 85-year-old Fran­cois Houtart be­gan work­ing to nom­i­nate him for the No­bel, a woman con­tacted the non­profit or­ga­ni­za­tion he founded and said the priest had abused her brother 40 years ago, ac­cord­ing to its di­rec­tor, Bernard Duterme.

Houtart re­signed the next month from the board of Cetri, which pub­lishes re­ports crit­i­cal of de­vel­oped na­tions' ac­tions in the Third World, Duterme said.

Houtart told the news­pa­per Le Soir that he twice touched "the in­ti­mate parts" of his cousin, an in­ci­dent he called "in­con­sid­er­ate and ir­re­spon­si­ble." In her e-mail to Cetri and the com­mit­tee to nom­i­nate Houtart for the No­bel Prize, the vic­tim's sis­ter also pointed to her tes­ti­mony in the church's re­port, Duterme said.

There, she de­tails the abuse of her brother, which she de­scribes as "rape," by an un­named priest.

She says the priest, who was a friend of her fa­ther, en­tered her brother's room twice "to rape him." "Be­fore the third time, my brother went to tell his par­ents, who kept him in their room," she is quoted as say­ing in the re­port.

The priest isn't named in the re­port. Houtart is in Ecuador and didn't im­me­di­ately re­spond to phone calls and e-mail Wed­nes­day, but he told Le Soir that he en­tered the boy's room, when he was stay­ing with the boy's par­ents close to Liege, in east­ern Bel­gium. -Ap

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