BRUSSELS, January 7, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A celebrated Marxist sociologist, Catholic priest and “peritus” or expert adviser at the Church’s Second Vatican Council, has admitted that he had “inappropriately touched” his then-eight year-old male cousin in 1970.
Belgian François Houtart, 85, is a priest in good standing of the archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels lives now in Ecuador. He told an interviewer at the Belgian paper Le Soir late last month, “While walking through the bedroom of one of the boys in the family, I effectively touched his private parts twice. This woke him up and frightened him. It was obviously an inconsiderate and irresponsible act.”
Houtart told Le Soir that he was “personally perturbed” by the incident, “since I was conscious of the contradiction it represented with my Christian faith and my function as a priest.”
The boy’s sister, who has not been named in the media, made a complaint to the archdiocese’s sexual abuse panel, calling the incident “rape.”
She was quoted in the panel report saying that the priest, whom she declined to name in the report, was a friend of her father and had visited their home around 1970. She said that the priest 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,” the report quotes her saying.
The victim’s sister said that their father talked to the priest about the incident a few days later and asked him to apologize, but the priest declined, she said. The woman testified that the priest “told my father that there wasn’t anything more normal.”
As a result of the allegations, Houtart has now resigned as chairman of the far-left development agency that he founded in 1976, Center Tricontinental (CETRI). He has also asked the World Social Forum, which recently nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize, to withdraw their applications to the Nobel committee. The committee said that Houtart had asked that his name be withdrawn because “his age and his personal projects would not allow him to fully assume the role requested in such circumstances.”
Bernard Duterme, the director of CETRI, told the paper that the abused boy’s sister had contacted him naming Houtart as the priest in her report. Houtart resigned from the board a month later.
“Once the facts were partly confirmed by François Houtart, we immediately asked him to resign,” Duterme said.
Houtart has for decades been a leading light on the extreme left in international politics. But most significantly for the Catholic Church, Houtart was also a “peritus,” that is a technical adviser, to the arch-liberal Cardinal Suenens at the Second Vatican Council. As such he was instrumental in the composition of the Council’s document “Gaudium et spes,” the document on the relations of the Church to the modern world.
The ongoing revelations about Belgium’s leading leftist Catholic figures have shaken the confidence of the famously liberal branch of the Catholic Church in Europe.
The former head of the Church in Belgium, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, who retired as head of the Brussels archdiocese in April last year has admitted to attempting to suppress the scandal. He was questioned in December for four hours by MPs on his involvement in a cover-up. At that time, he maintained that in more than thirty years he knew of only seven sex abuse incidents involving priests.
Immediately after Danneels’s retirement, the Church set up its panel that immediately received as many as 475 complaints. Last year, Belgian police seized the panel’s files as part of their investigation that included extensive questioning of the cardinal.
It was later made public that many who had spoken to the panel had over the years made complaints directly to the cardinal. Danneels had insisted until then that he knew of no allegations whatever.
Danneels reigned for thirty years as head not only of the Church in Belgium, but as the de facto leader of the extreme left wing of the Catholic Church in Europe.