Yes, Bishop Roger Vangheluwe, emeritus of Bruges (and amazingly still notlaicized), who resigned over having abused his own nephews, is now accused of quite more recent episodes of abuse of boys, well into the 1990s. We will not speak about this, it is easy to criticize bishops when they are down.
But how did a despicable man like Vangheluwe reach his position? In great part due to the liberal enablers, inside and outside his country, who promoted his views, views that led to the destruction of the once great Church of Belgium, because they were "popular", and "modern", and fit for the "men and women of our time", and "liturgically up-to-date", and "post-medieval", "post-Tridentine", in the spirit of the Council. For instance, a quick look at the archives of the "National Catholic Reporter" reveals that Mr. John Allen Jr was one of the leaders of the Vangheluwe Fan Club in the English-speaking world when Vangheluwe's was a voice of the change that was to come:
Vangheluwe Enabler: the "brave" stand in favor of female diaconal "ordination": 'As bishops, we have to say what we think'
November 21, 2003 ... The Belgian bishops are in Rome this week for their ad limina visit, and one of them brought a rather unusual subject to put on the table: the ordination of women to the diaconate.
In 2002, the International Theological Commission, the body that advises the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, examined the question of women deacons. While it did not reach a definitive conclusion, it seemed to lean heavily against the possibility. First, it held that deaconesses in the ancient Church “cannot be compared to the sacramental diaconate” today, since there is no clarity about the rite of institution that was used or what functions they exercised. Second, it said, “the unity of the sacrament of orders” is “strongly imprinted by ecclesiastical tradition, the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and the post-conciliar magisterium,” despite differences between the episcopacy and priesthood, and the diaconate.
That result built on a September 2001 notice from three Vatican offices rejecting lay-led programs ostensibly preparing women for future admission to the diaconate. “The church does not forsee such ordination,” the notice said.
Despite that, however, Bishop Roger Vangheluwe of Bruges, Belgium, is carrying the issue to Rome.
Vangheluwe has long been concerned with women’s issues. In his diocesan newspaper Ministrando in October 2002, Vangheluwe appealed to priests and faithful of his diocese “to include more women in the administration, the organization and the basic movements inside the Church.” He asked parishes and church institutions to hold an “internal audit,” and offered a questionnaire. He noted that while Pope John Paul II has ruled out women priests, that leaves open the possibility of women deacons. He asked for comments to be sent to him.
By the beginning of March 2003, Vangheluwe said he got 500 responses from individuals and groups, and even from other dioceses. Some 86 percent were in favor of the diaconate for women.
Vangheluwe vowed to relay this sentiment during his meetings this week. I sat down with him at the Belgian College on Nov. 20 to talk about why he supports female deacons.
First, Vangheluwe said, is the pastoral desire to incorporate women more fully into the life of the church. Second is a theological need to focus the diaconate more on service.
“At the Last Supper, Jesus said ‘do this in memory of me’ twice,” Vangheluwe said. “The first was with the bread and wine, which became the sacrament of the Eucharist. The second was with the washing of the feet. We have forgotten somewhat about the second.”
In his diocese, Vangheluwe said, he has 80 deacons, who function as “little priests,” absorbed in liturgical roles. He would like to emphasize the service dimension, and said there’s no reason a woman can’t play that role.
In fact, Vangheluwe said he would favor a separation between the priesthood and the diaconate, so that in the ordinary course of things priests would not first be ordained deacons. Thus the distinction between the sacramental and service roles would be clear. The bishop would be both priest and deacon.
Vangheluwe, who was a pastor and seminary professor in Brugge before becoming bishop 19 years ago, said some Vatican officials with whom he’s spoken this week have been cool to his proposal, but others have encouraged him, telling him, “you have to go on.”
“I am not a rebel,” Vangheluwe said. “The pope has said no to women priests, and I agree. But for the moment [the diaconate] is a free question in the church, and all I am saying is that I want more study on this question.”
Vangheluwe said the International Theological Commission document is “not the last word.”
“As bishops, we have to say what we think,” Vangheluwe said.
Vangheluwe is not the only bishop to have raised the issue. In 1994, for example, Cardinal Carlo Maria Martini of Milan said that the moment had arrived for “serious consideration” of the question of whether women could be admitted to the diaconate.