Authors Greg Erlandson and Matthew Bunson continue the discussion they began in the book from Our Sunday Visitor, Pope Benedict XVI and the Sexual Abuse Crisis: Working for Reform and Renewal. Send us feedback at email@example.com. Kindle Edition available for download at amazon.com.
Developments in Belgium over the last seven days have gone from strange to stranger as police raided Church offices, drilled holes in the coffins of dead archbishops while ostensibly searching for files related to sexual abuse cases, and attracting the ire of Pope Benedict XVI and the Vatican.
Now the case has taken another strange turn with victims weighing in, objecting to the fact that their confidential files may be made public by the police.
On June 24, police and court officials in Belgium seized massive numbers of files from the offices, residence and cathedral of the Archbishop of Mechelin-Brussels as part of their investigation into charges of clergy sexual abuse. During the raids on the archbishop’s chancery and cathedral, police also demanded laptop computers, drilled holes into the tombs of long dead Cardinal Archbishops of Brussels to search for possibly hidden files, confiscated cell phones from bishops who had gathered for a meeting and detained the prelates from 10:30 in the morning until 7:30 that evening.
The incident sparked a strong reaction from the Church in Belgium and quickly involved the Holy See. The Cardinal Secretary of State for Pope Benedict XVI, Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, released a statement that “the Secretariat of State also expresses great surprise at how some searches were conducted yesterday by the Belgian judicial authorities, and its indignation at the fact that the tombs of Cardinals Jozef-Ernest Van Roey and Leon-Joseph Suenens, deceased archbishops of Mechelen-Brussels, were violated. The dismay felt over those actions, is compounded by regret for some breaches of confidentiality, owed to those very victims for whom the searches were conducted.”
In his own letter to Archbishop André-Mutien Leonard of Mechelen-Brussels, who is also the president of the Belgian Episcopal Conference, Pope Benedict expressed concern “for the surprising and deplorable manner in which [the] searches were carried out.”
The fallout from the raid continued when the Church-supported commission looking into clerical sexual abuse in Belgium suspended its work, and the commission head, the child psychiatrist Peter Adriaenssens, resigned after declaring that the commission had been used as “bait” by state prosecutors. He also expressed concerns that the private information of abuse victims had been potentially violated.
On June 29, a Belgian man who had testified about his own sexual abuse by a priest before a church panel filed a complaint after he learned that his file had been confiscated in the raids.
According to the Associated Press, Jan Hertogen, 63, said that he had told his story only when promised it would not be shared. He is urging other victims to file protests as well.
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