ROME ( Associated Press) – Retired Ghent bishop Luc Van Looy has rejected the title of cardinal given to him by Pope Francis because of his poor response to clergy sexual abuse cases, Belgium’s bishops’ conference said.
In a statement, the bishops said Van Looy asked the pope for permission to decline the honor “so as to avoid further harm to the victims.”
Francis named Van Looy among the 21 new princes of the church during a meeting on 27 August. The 80-year-old bishop has passed the age to attend a new conference that will elect the next pope, but he was one of five bishops recognized for dedicating their lives to the service of the Church.
Van Looy, a priest in the Salesian order, was bishop of the diocese in north-west Belgium from 2004 to 2020.
The Conference of Bishops of Belgium noted that the announcement of his promotion to cardinalate “generated many positive reactions, but also criticized that he did not always respond adequately to the abuses in his pastoral work as Bishop of Ghent.”
The conference welcomed Van Looy’s decision to decline the appointment and reiterated his commitment to fighting abuse in the Church and putting the interests of victims first.
The Belgian Catholic Church has a regrettable record of abuse and cover-ups. In 2010, he commissioned a report acknowledging more than 500 cases of abuse and at least 13 victimized suicides in the 1950s.
That year, police raided church offices and the Archbishop of Bruges resigned after admitting that he had abused his nephew for years while he was a priest and bishop. The Bruges scandal extended to the then head of the Belgian Church, Cardinal Godfried Daniels, who was recorded encouraging the bishop’s victim to remain silent.