East Flanders priest suspended after sexual abuse complaint
A parish priest in East Flanders has been suspended following a complaint of sexual abuse, the diocese of Ghent confirmed on Tuesday. The church authorities in Rome must now decide on his status.
The complaint concerns the parish priest of Brakel and Lierde, two municipalities in the Belgian province of East Flanders.
The bishop of Ghent, Lode Van Hecke, suspended the priest as a precaution following a complaint to the inter-diocesan contact point for reports of sexual abuse.
The victim was not a minor at the time of the abuse but can be described as a vulnerable person, the diocese said in a press release. The person "does not wish to file a complaint with the court and wishes to remain anonymous", the diocese said.
"The priest confessed to the facts in talks with representatives of the contact point and the bishop. The bishop has issued a decree with measures for the priest's immediate suspension," the press release reads.
The fact that the victim does not want to go to court does not remove the need for church-initiated proceedings, said a spokesperson for the Bishop of Ghent. According to current regulations, the abuse of a vulnerable adult must be treated in the same way as the abuse of a minor.
The diocese of Ghent has referred the case to the ecclesiastical authorities in Rome. The priest will remain suspended at least until Rome reaches a verdict.
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