News from Europe

A Belgian court fined Catholic prelates for denying a woman deacon training

Belgian prelates Archbishop Luc Terlinden of Mechelen-Brussels and former Archbishop Cardinal Jozef De Kesel were ordered to pay compensation by a Belgian court after denying a woman entry into a diaconate formation program.


According to the Belgian newspaper De Morgen, Veer Dusauchoit, a Belgian woman, was refused entry into a training program for deacons of the Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels in June and October 2023. Her initial request was made to Cardinal Jozef De Kesel and the second to Archbishop Luc Terlinden, both of whom rejected her application because women cannot be ordained as deacons in the Catholic Church. Dusauchoit subsequently took legal action, claiming gender discrimination.

The court in Mechelen found that the archbishops erred in rejecting Dusauchoit’s application and ordered each to pay 1,500 euros in compensation. However, the court did not address the issue of ordination and acknowledged it has no authority to overturn the archbishops’ decisions regarding who may be admitted to the diaconal training program.

“The court finds that the archbishops made a mistake in assessing the candidacy,” stated Luc De Cleir, the court’s press attaché. “It only concerns admission to training, not the question of effective appointment as a deacon.”

The ruling raises concerns about the right to religious freedom, which includes the autonomy of religious institutions to determine their own internal procedures, such as clergy training and ordinations, without state interference. The involvement of a secular court in these matters is seen as a potential threat to this aspect of religious freedom.


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