Belfast Telegraph

Tuesday 23 December 2014

Nobel-campaign priest confesses to child sex-abuse

A Belgian priest has confessed to child sex abuse after accusations surfaced during a campaign to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Fr Francois Houtart (85) was nominated for the prize for his work fighting globalisation's impact on developing countries.

The confession was published in a Belgian newspaper and confirmed by the organistion the priest founded, deepening a sex-abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church in the country. After a spate of accusations this year, the church in September published the harrowing accounts of more than 100 victims of clerical sex abuse, some as young as two when they were assaulted.

In October, after supporters of Houtart began working to nominate him for the Nobel, a woman contacted the non-profit organisation he founded and said the priest had abused her brother 40 years ago, according to its director Bernard Duterme.

Houtart resigned the next month from the board of Cetri, which publishes reports on developed nations' actions in the Third World, Mr Duterme said.

Houtart told the newspaper Le Soir that he touched "the intimate parts" of his cousin, an incident he called "inconsiderate and irresponsible".

In her e-mail to Cetri and the committee to nominate Houtart for the Nobel Prize, the victim's sister also pointed to her testimony in the church's report, Mr Duterme said. She says the priest, who was a friend of her father, 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," she is quoted as saying in the report. The priest isn't named in the report.

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