Belgian activist priest admits sexual abuse
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