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Of all Pope Francis' controversial appointments to the Synod on the Family, that of Cardinal Danneels is surely the most scandalous.

September 16, 2015 (VoiceoftheFamily) — Voice of the Family reported yesterday on the special appointments made by Pope Francis to the Ordinary Synod on the Family to be held in Rome this October. A significant number of the appointed prelates openly reject the teachings of the Catholic Church on questions relating to sexual ethics and the family.

The appointment most likely to cause scandal however must be that of Godfried Cardinal Danneels, Archbishop Emeritus of Mechlen-Brussels. Here are just some of the many questions that those concerned with the protection of children and the family will be asking in the light of Pope Francis’s invitation to Cardinal Danneels to attend a synod supposedly called to find solutions to the problems facing the family.

Did Cardinal Danneels protect clergy accused of child abuse? 

Elizabeth Yore, an international child rights attorney who has provided legal and technical assistance to families of victims and the Belgian government in child abuse and child murder cases, provided Voice of the Family with the following report:

On April 8, 2010, the newly retired Cardinal Danneels received some visitors at his home. They were the relatives of the Bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, Danneels’ close friend. At this meeting, the nephew of Vangheluwe described a long and sordid 13 year molestation by his uncle, the Bishop of Bruges. Cardinal Daneels advised the nephew not to go public with the sexual abuse. During the meeting, Danneels advised the young man not to “make a lot of noise” about the abuse he endured from his uncle bishop because Vangheluwe was scheduled to retire in a year anyway. “It would be better that you wait,” advised Danneels, while also urging the young man to forgive his uncle.

The conversation was tape recorded by the nephew and subsequently released to the press. Cardinal Danneels, the former head of Belgium’s Roman Catholic Church for 3 decades, could be heard on tape urging this sexual abuse victim to stay quiet and not disclose the abuse until after the bishop who repeatedly molested him over a span of 13 years could retire. After the release of the recording, Danneels did not dispute the authenticity of the conversation. A media firestorm was unleashed in Belgium, a country still reeling over institutional cover ups of child sex abuse.

Bishop Vangheluwe admitted to the sexual abuse of his nephew and stepped down from his post shortly after the April 8 meeting between his nephew and Danneels. Because of the statute of limitations law, the Bishop of Bruges was never charged with the crime. However, the plot continues to thicken.

The daily De Standaard newspaper reported that two former Belgian priests, Fathers Rik Deville and Norbert Bethune had personally informed Cardinal Danneels about Bishop Vangheluwe’s child sexual abuse several times between the mid-1990s and early 2000s. Father Deville told the Associated Press that he told Cardinal Danneels about a number of sexual-abuse cases. “The cardinal sometimes got angry and said it was not my job, that I should not get involved,” Deville said.

The Belgian Police conducted a surprise raid on the Cardinal’s residence and office looking for documents relating to clergy abuse and questioned the Cardinal for 10 hours. Although the Cardinal was never charged, the Catholic Church’s own investigation commission issued a 200 page report on 10 September 2010.

According to the report, the commission heard allegations from 488 complainants, concerning incidents that took place between 1950 and 1990. The report contained testimony from 124 people. Two-thirds of the complainants were men, now aged in their 50s and 60s. As head of the commission, Dr. Peter Adriaenssens, a prominent and respected psychiatrist, disclosed that Cardinal Godfried Danneels name surfaced in 50 cases, not as an abuser, but as someone who knew of the sexual child abuse by the clergy.

Did Cardinal Danneels support the use of immoral, pornographic, “educational” materials in Belgian Catholic schools?

Dr. Alexandra Colen, a member of the Belgian House of Representatives, wrote about the problem of immoral “educational” materials in the Belgian Catholic Church, and the role of  Cardinal Danneels, in the Brussels Journal in June 2010. Here are some important extracts from her article:

The sympathy for pedophile attitudes and arguments among the Belgian bishops during this period was no secret, especially since 1997 when the fierce controversy about the catechism textbook Roeach made the headlines. The editors of Roeach were Prof. Jef Bulckens of the Catholic University of Leuven and Prof. Frans Lefevre of the Seminary of Bruges. The textbook contained a drawing which showed a naked baby girl saying: ‘Stroking my pussy makes me feel groovy,’ ‘I like to take my knickers off with friends,’ ‘I want to be in the room when mum and dad have sex.’ The drawing also shows a naked little boy and girl that are ‘playing doctor’ and the little boy says: ‘Look, my willy is big.'

The drawing also showed three pairs of parents. Those with the ‘correct’ attitude reply: ‘Yes, feeling and stroking those little places is good fun.’ This ‘catechism textbook’ was used in the catechism lessons in the catholic schools, until one day I discovered it among the schoolbooks of my eldest daughter, then 13 years old. On 3 September 1997 I wrote a letter to Cardinal Danneels, saying:

When I see this drawing and its message, I get the distinct impression that this catechism textbook is designed intentionally to make 13 and 14 year olds believe that toddlers enjoy genital stimulation. In this way one breeds pedophiles that sincerely believe that children actually think that what they are doing to them is “groovy”, while the opposite is the case.

I told Cardinal Danneels that, although I was a member of Parliament for the Flemish-secessionist party Vlaams Blok, I was addressing him as a Catholic parent ‘who wishes to remain faithful to the papal authority and also wishes to educate her children this way.’ I insisted that he forbid the use of this book in the catechism lessons: ‘This is why I insist – yes, the days of meekly asking are over – that you forbid the use of this “catechism book” in our children’s classrooms.’

Because Cardinal Danneels refused to respond to requests to put an end to these practices, I and hundreds of concerned parents gathered in front of his palace on 15 October 1997. We carried placards with the text ‘Respect for parents and children,’ and we said the rosary. Cardinal Danneels refused to receive a delegation of the demonstrators. ‘I shall not be pressured,’ he said in the libertine magazine Humo on 21 October 1997. The Archbishop’s door remained closed when we demonstrated again on 10 December 1997.

On 18 February 1998 we were at Cardinal Danneels’s door again, myself and a group of parents. Again the door remained closed. So on 18 March 1998 a group of two hundred parents went to the Papal Nuncio, the ambassador of the Vatican, in Brussels. But the Nuncio, who was a friend of Danneels, also refused to meet us. He had, however, alerted the police, who had several water cannons at the ready just around the corner.

Does Cardinal Danneels support homosexual unions?

In May 2013 expressed his support for homosexual unions to Dutch language newspaper De Tijd. He said: “I think it’s a positive development that states are free to open up civil marriage for gays if they want,” the cardinal told the newspaper , even as he said he thinks such unions should be given a different name than marriage.

The French language paper L’Echo, also quoted the cardinal saying that the French people should “obey the law” and not oppose “gay marriage.” France just recently passed a gay “marriage” law after a heated debate that saw hundreds of thousands of people take to the street in protest.

“We need to understand: The Church has never objected to the fact that there is a sort of ‘marriage’ between homosexuals – however  we’re talking about a sort of marriage,” the cardinal said. “This is not the same as the true marriage between a man and a woman, so we need to find another word for the dictionary.”

“However, insofar as it is legal – that it has been rendered legitimate by law – the Church has nothing to say about it.”

Did Cardinal Danneels try and persuade the Belgian king to acquiesce to the legalization of abortion in Belgium?

Early this year two Belgian politicians stated that Cardinal Danneels tried to persuade King Baudouin to sign the 1990 abortion bill into law. LifeSiteNews reported:

Philippe Moureaux, a member of the Belgian Socialist Party and vice-prime minister at the time, and Mark Eyskens, member of the Christian Democrat Party and former prime minister, have confirmed that several members of the Belgian government called on the cardinal to exert pressure on the King. According to Moureaux, the government arranged a “cautious and discreet” intervention on the part of Danneels ‘who would always be present at the Royal Family’s family events: he conducted all the royal marriages and baptized the King’s nieces and nephews,’ says Moureaux. ‘He was in a way the Royal Family’s chaplain and conscientious director,’ adds Mark Eyskens. ‘But, no result.'

King Baudouin remained firm in his determination not to participate in any way in the legalization of abortion. He finally accepted formally to ask the government to find a ‘solution’ that would ‘guarantee respect for parliamentary democracy.’ This resulted in his fictitious stepping down as King of the Belgians for 36 hours while the law, which had been approved by the legislature five days previously, was signed by the 14 members of the government in the night from April 3-4, 1990. The Belgian Parliament voted the King back into office on April 5. The Belgians were only to be informed of the dramatic events later that day.

In a television interview on 5 April 2015 the allegations were put to Cardinal Danneels. LifeSiteNews reports:

Danneels does not answer directly on the point of his intervention – or not – to make King Baudouin sign the Belgian abortion law, but the distinction he makes between ‘moral norms’ and ‘legal frameworks’ which are of the responsibility of the State do show that he accepts the existence of legalized abortion insofar as it is the result of a political decision, and that would suggest that he would not have refused in principle to advise the King to sign the law.