VATICAN CITY — The Vatican is using its new rules to crack down on sex abuse by high-ranking churchmen, revealing that it has ordered a Belgian bishop to no longer work as a priest while officials determine his punishment.
Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, 74, admitted abusing his nephew and resigned a year ago, just as the sex abuse scandal was spreading across Europe and the Vatican was revising the way it handled prosecutions of bishops and other top officials.
Over the weekend, Belgian bishops reported that Vangheluwe had merely been sent outside the country for spiritual and psychological counseling. In a statement responding to queries from the Associated Press, the Vatican clarified on Tuesday that Vangheluwe is being sanctioned, including not being allowed to work as a priest or bishop.
Pope Benedict XVI will eventually decide his fate. Benedict will base a punishment on the diagnosis and prognosis of Vangheluwe's treatment, and on "the suffering of the victims and the need for justice," the Vatican said.
Vangheluwe is still technically a priest, though he is not allowed to celebrate Mass publicly. Among the possible punishments that Benedict can issue is to remove him from the priesthood.
Last May, the church revised its rules to enable its chief enforcer, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, to prosecute bishops and cardinals, not just priests. In the past, the pope would delegate the cases of bishops who committed canonical crimes to various Vatican offices or a Vatican court.