BRUSSELS (Reuters) - A disgraced former Belgian bishop admitted Thursday that he had abused a second nephew, but said that he did not consider himself a paedophile.
Roger Vangheluwe, 74, resigned as bishop of Bruges a year ago after admitting to sexually abusing one nephew and is still awaiting a final verdict from the Vatican.
In his first public appearance in a year, Vangheluwe gave a long interview to Belgian television station VT4 that was broadcast live Thursday evening.
He began by saying how sorry he was and then gave details of his abuse of two nephews, one for some 13 years, the other for less than a year.
“It had nothing to do with sexuality. I have often been involved with children and I never felt the slightest attraction. It was a certain intimacy that took place,” Vangheluwe said.
“I don’t have the impression at all that I am a paedophile. It was really just a small relationship. I did not have the feeling that my nephew was against it, quite the contrary.”
Vangheluwe said that the abuse had stopped some 25 years ago, before he was a bishop, and that he had managed to live with his past in the intervening period.
“How did it begin? As with all families. When they came to visit, the nephews slept with me. It began as a game with the boys. It was never a question of rape, there was never physical violence used. He never saw me naked and there was no penetration.”
Vangheluwe said he had thought of his acts as more “superficial” things.
“Of course I know that this was not good. I have confessed many times,” he said.
The former bishop also said he had paid one of his victims a million Belgian francs (22,000 pounds) on a number of occasions but that this had not been to buy his silence.
Vangheluwe, who has been in hiding since his public confession, is waiting for the Vatican to decide whether to defrock him.
The Vatican has said the former bishop had left Belgium and was receiving “spiritual and psychological treatment.”
Vangheluwe, who mentioned he had received hundreds of letters of support, said he would accept the Vatican’s verdict.
Prosecutors in Bruges have said the abuse cases took place too long ago to be prosecuted now. The bishop’s resignation sparked a wave of revelations of sexual abuse in Belgium’s Catholic Church and fuelled debate about whether the hierarchy protected abusers over the past decades.
Brussels Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard has caused controversy by saying it was vengeful to prosecute retired priests and that the Church had no obligation to compensate victims.
A parliamentary inquiry panel urged the Church last month to provide compensation. The Church has said it is considering what to do.
Reporting by Philip Blenkinsop; editing by David Stamp