Rorate Caeli

Danneels protégé set to be named new Archbishop of Brussels

Belgian news sources (such as La Libre) are reporting that the appointment to the See of Brussels of Jozef De Kesel, the current Bishop of Bruges (left), will be formally announced tomorrow shortly before noon, Rome time.

Bishop De Kesel is 68 years old, and was ordained bishop in 2002. After serving for 8 years as an auxiliary bishop in Mechlin-Brussels (mostly under Cardinal Danneels) he was appointed to the See of Bruges in 2010, as successor to the disgraced Roger Vangeheluwe. Despite being less outspoken than Bishop Johan Bonny of Antwerp (who had been considered the front-runner for Brussels), he is by all accounts scarcely less liberal. 

Within a few months of his appointment to Bruges, De Kesel publicly questioned clerical celibacy in the Latin Rite and declared that women's ordination to the priesthood is "negotiable", as Rorate reported at that time. As auxiliary bishop of Brussels he had supported the celebration of a Mass organized by several parishes in that city specifically for participants in its annual "Lesbian and Gay Pride" march.  

Despite reportedly making more orthodox-sounding noises afterwards (specifically when Benedict XVI still reigned), De Kesel continues to be identified with the liberal wing of the Belgian Church. In October last year he tried to assign to active parish duty a priest who had been convicted of molesting a teenage boy, declaring that he (the priest) deserved "a second chance"; only media outrage and the priest's own request prompted the bishop to cancel the appointment.

We refer our readers to our June post on the significance of the succession to Brussels, and why this whole matter has been exceedingly unfair to Archbishop André-Joseph Leonard (whose brief reign was spent under Danneels' shadow) and to the more conservative Francophone Belgian prelates. With this appointment the extremely toxic legacy of Danneels for Belgian (and particularly Flemish) Catholicism and indeed for European Catholicism as a whole has been given a significant boost -- not that it ever really disappeared. One has to wonder what will be left of Catholicism in Flanders and Brussels 7 or 8 years from now.