Skip to comments.Vatican ‘Astonished’ Over Belgian Raid (Catholic Caucus)
Posted on 06/29/2010 1:46:38 PM PDT by NYer
VATICAN CITY — The Holy Father was quick to deplore it, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone described it as something even communist regimes wouldn’t do, and Belgium’s bishops denounced it as violating their constitutional rights.
The police raid of Church offices in Belgium June 24 to search for evidence of clerical sex abuse has caused such an outcry that even a committee set up by the Church to hear victim complaints said yesterday it would close down in protest over the police seizure of all its records.
The Belgian bishops’ conference said police violated the tombs of Cardinals Jozef-Ernest Van Roey and Leon-Joseph Suenens, deceased archbishops of Mechelen-Brussels, drilling small holes to insert cameras into the grave sites to search for cached documents. For 10 hours, authorities detained the country’s bishops who were holding their plenary meeting, confiscated their cell phones and forbade them from leaving the premises even after questioning. The Church said they also broke privacy laws by seizing the committee’s archives and raiding the home of Cardinal Godfried Danneels, the recently retired archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels.
Pope Benedict XVI issued a statement June 26, calling the police search “surprising and deplorable” and stressing that “these serious matters should be dealt with by both civil law and canon law, while respecting the specific nature and autonomy of each.” He expressed his hope that justice runs its course, respecting the rights of victims, other persons and institutions. A statement from the Vatican Secretariat of State likewise spoke of its “astonishment” over the raid and its “indignation over the violation of the graves.” Archbishop Dominique Mamberti, the Holy See’s foreign minister, summoned Belgium’s ambassador to provide an explanation.
The Brussels prosecutor said the search was ordered after a string of accusations of pedophilia against “a certain number of Church figures.” Belgium was one of the first countries to be rocked by some very disturbing clerical sex-abuse scandals in the 1990s.In April, the country’s longest-serving bishop, Roger Vangheluwe, resigned after admitting to sexually molesting a boy two decades ago.
Justice Minister Stefaan De Clerck defended the action, saying on Belgian television over the weekend that it was within the law and that the bishops were “treated normally.” He said the raid will be “assessed retrospectively” to see if it was disproportionate. The country’s foreign minister, Steven Vanackere, told the U.K.’s The Independent newspaper June 29 that the Church should not try to impede the work of the judiciary and should “react with balance.”
Belgian canon lawyers say that seizing all Church archives appears to breach an article of the country’s constitution. Writing on the blog Mirror of Justice, the American Jesuit and international law expert Father Robert John Araujo said Belgium has also yet to explain why it has not honored the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, a treaty to which it is party. Article 17(1) of the accord specifies: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honor and reputation.”
Belgium’s bishops’ conference made a point of reiterating “its firm condemnation of all sinful and criminal acts of abuse of minors by members of the Church, as well as the need to repair and confront such acts in accordance with the requirements of justice and the teachings of the Gospel.” But it is consulting lawyers to decide whether to take legal action against police chiefs and perhaps even the public prosecutor.
Writing in the June 28 edition of Corriere della Sera, Andrea Riccardi, founder of the Sant’Egidio Community, stressed the Church does not want to cover up any crimes, but is simply asking that its sovereignty be respected. He added that Catholicism has been vital in keeping Belgium united since its two linguistically divided regions, French Walloon and Dutch Flemish, formed Belgium in 1830. The Catholic Church, he wrote, formed the “soul” of the country in resisting German occupation during the world wars, and today the bishops’ conference “is one of the few institutions that have resisted the separation of the Flemish and the French.”
Vittorio Messori, co-author of the 1995 book Crossing the Threshold of Hope with John Paul II, likewise noted the country’s deep Catholic roots, but said today it “boasts of being one of the most secular countries, where the marginalization of Catholics is growing every day.” He pointed out in a June 27 article for Corriere della Sera that the marriage of the two linguistic peoples has only lasted as long as the country has been Catholic: “Now [that] the adhesive [of Catholicism] has diluted, Belgium has become an ungovernable pretense.” Belgium has had a series of weak governments and came close to partition in 2008, when political leaders spent months trying to form a government.
Reflecting on what he saw as the absurdity of last week’s raid, Messori wondered first why there was a need to confiscate the bishops’ cell phones. “To prevent what?” he asked. “To stop the bishops calling for a blitz from the paratrooper section of the Vatican Swiss Guard to free them?”
But he said the Belgian judiciary have set themselves up for the most “devastating ridicule” over the decision to search at least one cardinal’s grave in the Mechelen cathedral — a move emulating the plot of a Dan Brown novel. They show themselves to be “obsessed with riddles, mysteries, secret codes: always and only Catholic, of course,” Messori wrote. “The inquisitors, obviously already believing in them, have fallen for the joke of a prankster: ‘Go to the old cathedral, go down to the dark crypt, open the venerated tombs of the cardinals: There you will find the scrolls which show the plot of the current priests, followers of paedophile cults, as were their predecessors, the Templars …’”
Riccardi said that in recent decades the Belgian Church has become “quieter and retreated” in the face of secularization and assaults on institutions. However, despite the “shadows,” he said, “there are reservoirs of hope in a country in difficulty, because Belgium needs hope and a future.”
Catholic Caucus ping!
**The Holy Father was quick to deplore it, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone described it as something even communist regimes wouldnt do, and Belgiums bishops denounced it as violating their constitutional rights.**
What is astonishing? What is deplorable? What is something even communist regimes would not do?
Open graves in such a way. That is what the Pope, the Belgian bishops and everyone elese is objecting to. It was the method used.
They will put you out of the synagogue; in fact, a time is coming when anyone who kills you will think he is offering a service to God.
Includes a transcript of the Pope's speech.
I believe you are correct, sir.
The means never justify the ends even though such apostate Catholics as blogger Dreher eagerly support this action but refuses to entertain criticism of same on his blog.
This past week, Belgian police raided the headquarters of the Catholic Church in Belgian, as well as the home and office of recently retired Archbishop Godfried Danneels, during an investigation into the sexual abuse of children.
Rorate Caeli provides the full text of Pope Benedicts letter to Abp. André Joseph Léonard, Archbishop of Mechlin-Brussels and President of the Belgian Episcopal Conference, responding to the unfortunate series of events:
I wish to express to you, dear Brother in the Episcopate, as well as to all Bishops of Belgium, my closeness and my solidarity in this moment of sadness, in which, with certain surprising and deplorable methods, searches were carried out in Mechlin Cathedral and in places where the Belgian Episcopate were assembled in plenary session. During that meeting, aspects related to the abuse of minors by members of the clergy were to have been treated, among other things. I have myself repeated numerous times that these grave facts should be treated by the civil order and by the canonical order in reciprocal respect for the specificity and autonomy of each one. In this sense, I wish that justice will follow its course, ensuring the rights of persons and institutions, in respect for victims, with the recognition, without prejudices, of those who wish to collaborate with it and with the refusal of everything that could darken the noble duties that are ascribed to it.
As Rorate Caeli notes, there is a one-sideness and tone-deafness to the papal remarks. The impression is exacerbated by Cardinal Secretary of State Tarcisio Bertone,
who characterized the Belgian polices raid as a kidnapping, a grave and inconceivable fact, having no precedent even in communist regimes.
However, a report from the Flemish De Standard casts light on the investigation of the tombs. English translation via Google, so pardon the choppiness (HT again: Rorate Caeli):
There are traces of tampering can be seen around the tomb of Cardinal Leo Suenens. Maybe that aroused the attention of police. Suenens was buried in 1996. The cardinal should nevertheless very prescient than to have hidden files.
Local television to watch the officers walked inside the cathedral Thursday with crowbar and hammer drill. That fueled rumors that they broke open tombs in the crypt. The Vatican yesterday expressed outrage at the desecration by the Belgian judicial authorities.
Well, desecration, says the guide. Investigators have two holes drilled in the wall that separates the two burial niches in the outside world. Behind it are a dozen boxes. Through those holes, they looked around with a camera, but found nothing. Can you call that sacrilege? Maybe they also want to break into boxes. But when you consider who it is, do you think twice[?]
Meanwhile, the National Catholic Reporter translates a La Stampa interview with Fr. Rik Devillè, a retired Belgian priest and anti-pedophilia crusader:
The Belgian church instituted its own commission to investigate charges of abuse, the Adriaenssens Commission. Is that not enough?
The problem was its connection with the Archdiocese, and the absence of either a lay component internally or a connection with the civil authorities. I always hoped that a truly independent commission would be formed, an organism whose objective was to help justice take its course. That must be the way. Its not up to the church to decide who violated the law and who should be punished.
Do you believe that Belgium is a special case? Or is the plague of sexual abuse by clergy a common evil?
It happens everywhere, believe me. Belgium believed itself to be an exception because no case ever came to light. Yet as early as 1994, I had collected 82 accusations. The victims wanted to be heard by the church, they wanted to break the curse. Its been useless, at least up to now.
You have said that you spoke with Cardinal Godfried Danneels, the former primate of the Belgian church, but he says he doesnt remember.
I spoke with him about my files on two occasions, in the first half of the 1990s. I advised him of the problem, and I dont know what he did afterwards. On one occasion, however, I remember that the cardinal became angry. He said this wasnt my job and that I should stay out of it.
Do you think he said that to hide something?
The bishops have a long history over their shoulders of silence and omissions. They protect the guilty, and not the victims.
The conservative blog Brussels Journal has a must-read account by Alexandra Colen, homeschooling mother and Member of the Belgian Parliament for Antwerp, on Catholic life during the reign of Cardinal Danneels:
Since the revelation in April that Cardinal Danneelss close friend and collaborator, Mgr Roger Vangheluwe, the Bishop of Bruges, had been a practicing pedophile throughout, and even before, his career as a bishop, victims have gained confidence that they will be taken seriously, and complaints have been pouring in, both to the courts and to the extra-judicial investigation committee of the archdiocese. The new archbishop Mgr. André-Joseph Léonard, has urged victims to take their case to the courts.
His predecessor, the liberal Cardinal Danneels, who was very popular with the press in Belgium and abroad, was Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels and Primate of Belgium from 1979 until 2010. The sympathy for pedophile attitudes and arguments among the Belgian bishops during this period was no secret, especially since 1997 when the fierce controversy about the catechism textbook Roeach made the headlines. The editors of Roeach were Prof. Jef Bulckens of the Catholic University of Leuven and Prof. Frans Lefevre of the Seminary of Bruges. The textbook contained a drawing which showed a naked baby girl [which describes the genital stimulation of toddlers as "good fun"].
I told Cardinal Danneels that, although I was a member of Parliament for the Flemish-secessionist party Vlaams Blok, I was addressing him as a Catholic parent who wishes to remain faithful to the papal authority and also wishes to educate her children this way. I insisted that he forbid the use of this book in the catechism lessons: This is why I insist yes, the days of meekly asking are over that you forbid the use of this catechism book in our childrens classrooms.
Today this case, that dates from 12 years ago, assumes a new and ominous significance. Especially now that I know that Mgr Roger Vangheluwe, the pedophile child molesting Bishop of Bruges, was the supervising bishop of both institutions the Catholic University of Leuven and the Seminary of Bruges whence came the editors in chief of this perverted catechism textbook.
Monsignor Vangheluwe not only entertained pedophile ideas, but also practiced them on his 11-year old nephew. Hundreds of children who were not raped physically were molested spiritually during the catechism lessons.
After I started my campaign against the Roeach textbook, many parents contacted me to voice their concerns. Stories of other practices in the Catholic education system poured in. There were schools where children were taught to put condoms over artificial penises and where they had to watch videos showing techniques of masturbation and copulation.
Because Cardinal Danneels refused to respond to requests to put an end to these practices, I and hundreds of concerned parents gathered in front of his palace on 15 October 1997. We carried placards with the text Respect for parents and children, and we said the rosary. Cardinal Danneels refused to receive a delegation of the demonstrators. I shall not be pressured, he said in the libertine magazine Humo on 21 October 1997. The Archbishops door remained closed
Those expressing frustration over the impertinence of the Belgian polices raid are encouraged to read the accounts of Alexandra Colen and Fr. Rik Devillè.
Finally, Michael Liccione (Sacramentum Vitae) asks the question:
Cardinal Danneels was, himself, enabled to enable the problems for three decades. What makes it so astonishing is that the problems were public knowledge for much of that time. So how did he get away with it?
Jan Hertogen, a 63-year-old sociologist, said he told his story to the panel on the condition it would not be passed to authorities. He said the police raids which also targeted a Catholic cathedral, church offices and a crypt were an invasion of his privacy.
The Belgian police are investigating clerical sexual abuse after the country's longest serving bishop stepped down in April, confessing he had sexually molested a boy. Several other men and boys had said they had previously told Cardinal Godfried Danneels, who retired in January, about abuse but their complaints had not been investigated.
How can anyone protest the Belgium raids as unjust?!? This was a systemic pedophilia ring operating in the Belgian Church, and the civil authorities had a duty to bypass the stonewalling of local Church authorities.
Look at the files put together on this thread. I wish the Pope had not protested the actions of the Belgian authorities. What the Belgian Church was doing was pure evil, and the Belgian authorities were justified in their extreme actions.
VATICAN CITY, 30 JUN 2010 (VIS) - The Holy Father today received in audience Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard of Mechelen-Brussels and president of the Belgian Episcopal Conference. VIS 20100630 (30)
Don’t you wish you could have been a fly on the wall at that meeting.
Yeah, but not as much as the meeting with Nancy Pelosi or a while ago with Henry Kissinger.