Rorate Caeli

Great Flemish Idea: Put a Convicted Boy Molester Back in a Parish Filled with Young Men!

The news comes from much of the Dutch-speaking media, that calls him the "Pedopriester" (no translation necessary). Details are brought to you by Dutch blog In Caelo:

Bishop Jozef De Kesel [of Bruges, Flanders, Belgium] has assigned a priest, who has been found guilty of at least one case of molesting a minor in the past, to the parish federation in Middelkerke, halfway between Ostend and Nieuwpoort on the Belgian coast.

Father Tom Flamez appeared in court in 2008 and 2009, where he was found guilty of sexual molestation of teenage boy. In January of 2009, the court, for reasons of its own, decided to waive any punishment, as Bishop De Kesel explains in a statement released today:

“For a period of five years, Tom Flamez was permanently monitored by the house of justice in Courtrai. Even during this time the probation commission had no objections to an eventual appointment as parish priest. Unlike the reporting of some media he never violated the probationary conditions. In January of 2014 the commission of the court of Courtrai decided that the trial period could be ended. Until this day Tom Flamez is sustainably and professionally supervised.”

In the meanwhile I have also presented this file to a higher ecclesial authority. The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith agreed with an eventual appointment, starting on 15 January 2014. Tom Flamez has been working on occasion in the parish of Middelkerke since September of 2011. His work there was positively evaluated. All this led me to decide, after consulting the diocesan council, to appoint Tom Flamez as parish priest in the federation of Middelkerke. Convinced that everyone who has shown to be able deserves a second chance, I hope that Tom Flamez will be given the opportunity to properly fulfill the duties entrusted to him.”

This statement is a response to ongoing media speculations that Fr. Flamez did violate the conditions of his probation, something which the bishop denies. Additionally, many also link him to the disgraced former bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, who resigned in 2010 after admitting being guilty of years of sexual abuse. [Source]

What did his lawyer say when interviewed yesterday? "With all due respect to the victims, but everyone deserves a second chance."


Does he deserve a second chance? Well, most in his situation around the world have been deservedly defrocked, so his privileged position is another sign of injustice, as is the fact that Vangheluwe's protector, Cardinal Danneels, was a guest of honor of His Holiness at the 2014 Synod of Bishops. It's as if Belgian pedophiles have some kind of hold (undue influence?...why?...) on the Vatican which prevents them from being punished with the same ecclesiastical justice applied in other nations - and their cardinalatial protector is even held in high Vatican honor. What does a priest or bishop in Belgium need to do to be removed from parish life and contact with minors?

At the very least, he could find his second chance in a myriad of monasteries where he can spend the rest of his life in secluded prayer and yet not deprived of Holy Mass.

Not in charge of a parish teeming with prey, that is, boys and young men!

[Original posting time: 12:57 PM GMT]

[Update: November 1] The Bishop of Bruges has (for now) decided to cancel the appointment of the man the Flemish press still calls the "Pedopriester" to the parish assignments; the act was prompted not by the bishop, but by the priest himself. The Bishop says now that "he realizes that the appointment has caused hurt to sexual abuse victims."

If history is any guide, the priest will be assigned to different places in the diocese for an indefinite time. God help him, the bishop, and especially the young faithful placed in such circumstances.