BRUSSELS, Belgium - A Belgian priest has confessed to a child sex-abuse accusation that came to light during a campaign to nominate him for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work fighting globalization's impact on developing countries.
The confession was published in a Belgian newspaper Wednesday and confirmed by the organization that the priest founded, deepening a sex-abuse scandal that has rocked the Catholic Church in the country. After a spate of accusations this year, the church in September published the harrowing accounts of more than 100 victims of clerical sex abuse, some as young as 2 when they were assaulted.
In October, after supporters of Francois Houtart, 85, began working to nominate him for the Nobel, a woman contacted the nonprofit organization he founded and said the priest had abused her brother 40 years ago, according to its director, Bernard Duterme.
Houtart resigned the next month from the board of Cetri, which publishes reports critical of developed nations' actions in the Third World, Duterme said.
Houtart told the newspaper Le Soir that he twice touched "the intimate parts" of his cousin, an incident he called "inconsiderate and irresponsible."
In her e-mail to Cetri and the committee to nominate Houtart for the Nobel Prize, the victim's sister also pointed to her testimony in the church's report, Duterme said.
In the testimony, she 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. It does not name the priest.
Houtart is in Ecuador and did not immediately respond to phone calls and e-mail Wednesday, but he told Le Soir that he entered the boy's room, when he was staying with the boy's parents close to Liege, in eastern Belgium.
"Walking through the room of one of the family's boys, I effectively touched his intimate parts twice, which woke him up and frightened him," Houtart is quoted as saying.
The committee in November ended its campaign to nominate Houtart for the 2011 Nobel Prize, saying the priest had requested its termination.