Perpetrators of abuse on electoral list for Brussels Archbishop's Priests Council. More evidence that modernists have never been serious about dealing with abuse.

“How many times can you put victims through hell?”

Perpetrators of abuse on electoral list for Archbishop Terlinden's priest council: “I'm sick of it”

The electoral list of the Priests Council, the body that advises Archbishop Luc Terlinden, includes several perpetrators of sexual abuse known to the church. “How many times can you put victims through hell?”

"How is this possible? A week ago, Archbishop Terlinden looked me straight in the eye. He apologized and co-signed my settlement (the contract setting out the financial compensation for the abuse, ed.). And now the same man he apologized for should be allowed to advise him if he is elected to the priest council? Why did I entrust them with my story?" says Carla Gilis (57).

The priest who abused Gilis from the age of eleven to thirteen is on the electoral list for the priest council. Each diocese has such an advisory body, chaired by the responsible bishop.

The Priests Council assists the bishop with advice on a wide variety of topics: from specific problems in the diocese to challenges for priests. Themes such as 'young people within the Catholic Church' are also discussed. If a church is laicized and given a different destination, such a consultation with the council of priests is even mandatory.

Elections for the Dutch-speaking priest council are taking place in the Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels. According to priest Rik Devillé, the founder of the human rights working group in the church, there are three known perpetrators on the list for the 75-plus category. Whoever is elected will serve on the nine-member council for three years.

"A disgrace"

“I couldn't believe it when the electoral list arrived in my mailbox: three perpetrators who abused several minor victims. One of them has been brought to justice, and at least a settlement has been reached for the other two. The last settlement was barely a week ago. A shame,” says Devillé.

De Standaard was able to verify the identity of the last perpetrator, but this was not possible for the other two due to the short time frame.

The last settlement that Devillé talks about is that of Carla Gilis, who was classified in the second most serious category of abuse. She previously testified in this newspaper about her search for recognition, which started after the Canvas series Godforgotten. After forty years, the series gave her the courage to go to the shelter for abuse within the church.

Gilis received an e-mail at the end of January that her perpetrator "is no longer allowed to perform pastoral duties". “I would have preferred to receive official proof of this,” she told De Standaard at the time. Gilis is not the only victim of that perpetrator known to the church. This is evident from correspondence from the abuse shelter in the church that De Standaard was able to view. Gilis does not accept that he can now be on a list. “I'm really sick of it.”

Administrative error

“If this information is correct, then it is a serious, structural error,” responds Geert De Kerpel, spokesperson for Archbishop Luc Terlinden, who cannot confirm whether perpetrators are on the list. “In principle, all priests of the diocese are on that list,” says De Kerpel, who emphasizes that the details of perpetrators and settlements are not visible to everyone within the church administration. According to him, Terlinden, who signed the accompanying letter to the electoral lists, “did not check the lists himself”.

According to Devillé, this should not be an excuse: “You are not allowed to sit on that council more than twice. The names of priests for whom this is the case are crossed out. But names of perpetrators of abuse cannot be deleted? Nonsense."

“Such a person should simply not be on an eligible list,” says canon lawyer, Rik Torfs. “If the person in question does not allow himself to be removed, then that task falls to the church authorities.”

The electoral lists must be returned by mid-May, only then will it be clear who the elected officials are. If someone were to be elected who is indeed known as a perpetrator of abuse, Archbishop Terlinden will refuse his appointment, according to De Kerpel.

“What message do you give to victims by even putting such a person on such a list,” says Ben Segers (Vooruit), who raised the question during the plenary meeting in Parliament on Monday whether there were indeed known perpetrators on the list who were in April was sent out. “Every critical reflex seems to be missing from the church. How many times can you put victims through hell?” says Segers.