Priest and Nobel Peace Prize candidate, 85, admits child abuse 40 years ago
Francois Houtart, Belgian sociologist and Catholic priest who admitted to sexually abusing an eight-year-old 40 years ago.
A Belgian Catholic priest and would-be Nobel Peace Prize holder has admitted that he sexually abused an eight-year-old boy 40 years ago.
The case only came forward when his cousin, the sister of his victim, came forward in reaction to a campaign to nominate Francois Houtart for the accolade.
She told the Belgian church authority that looks into child abuse, the Adriaenssens commission, that the abuse on her brother happened in 1970 while he stayed at their house.
Houtart, 85, was a prominent third world activist and chairman of a development agency that he founded in 1976, Center Tricontinental, until he resigned from the board in November in light of the allegations.
He is currently in Ecuador and was not responding to phone calls or emails.
Houtart told the Belgian newspaper Le Soir that he twice touched ‘the intimate parts’ of his cousin, an incident he called ‘inconsiderate and irresponsible.’
She details the abuse of her brother, which she describes as ‘rape,’ by an unnamed priest.
But the victim’s sister 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 said he spoke to the victim’s parents to see if they wanted him to quit as a priest but they told him to speak to a professor in Brussels.
They advised him to stay in the priesthood and concentrate on his academic work in religious sociology.
Houtart also told the newspaper that he had asked supporters to suspend the campaign for his nomination for the 2011 Nobel Peace Prize.
Once dubbed as the ‘Pope of anti-globalisation’ he was professor of sociology at the Catholic University of Brussels from 1958 until 1990.
He attended the second Vatican council for three years from 1962 and was one of the pioneers of the first World Social Forum in Proto Alegre in 2001 – an event when countries gather to look at different ways of running democracies.
Houtart is the eldest of 14 children and grandson of County Henry Carton de Wiart, a pioneer of the Catholic Party and Belgian Prime Minister from 1920 to 1921.
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