Support the (Belgian) police!

June 27, 2010 at 9:13 pm (Catholicism, Champagne Charlie, Christianity, religion)

Vatican taken by surprise over Belgium police raids

By David Willey
BBC News, Rome

The police raid in Belgium last week which broke up a meeting of the country’s Catholic Bishops – who were discussing how to deal with the paedophile priest crisis – took the Vatican by complete surprise.

There has been a change of tone in the Vatican’s reaction to the abuse crisis. Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican secretary of state and Pope Benedict’s number two, was furious when he heard how the police prevented the bishops from leaving the building where they had been meeting for nine hours.

The police took away their mobile telephones to prevent them communicating with their staff, or with the Vatican.

They also seized files from the headquarters of the Catholic church in Brussels including a laptop belonging to the former head of the church in Belgium, Cardinal Godefried Daneels.

They allegedly profaned the tomb of at least one former Belgian cardinal at the cathedral in Mechelen during what seems to have been a frenetic search for possible incriminating documents.

Officials said they were searching for evidence of possible abuse. Cardinal Bertone angrily told reporters during a conference he was attending at a Catholic university in Rome that not even communist states dared to treat church authorities and church property in this way.

He summoned the Belgian ambassador to the Vatican and handed him a formal protest note.

Pope Benedict’s own reaction in a letter to the head of the Belgian church was more measured.

While deploring the way in which the Belgian police had conducted their search for evidence of possible crimes of paedophilia committed by Belgian clergy, he said he was happy to let justice take its course provided the rights of all parties – victims of alleged paedophilia and accused priests – were respected.

This marked a definite change of tone in Vatican reaction to the clerical sexual abuse crisis which has hit the Catholic church in Europe and the Americas in recent years.

Some high-ranking Vatican officials have habitually dismissed media coverage of predator priests as “idle gossip”.

Belgium, like many other countries in Europe, may have a strong Catholic history, but is also subject to strong secular influences. Although the Vatican claims 75% of the population are members of the Catholic church, regular Sunday mass attendances have dwindled dramatically in recent years to about 5%.

Last year the Belgian parliament made a formal diplomatic protest to the Vatican over the Pope’s remarks about the use of condoms to combat Aids.

The Pope was on his way to Africa – the continent most seriously affected by the Aids – and his remarks aroused a storm of protests.

Critics included the prestigious British medical journal, The Lancet.

‘Cloud of ambiguity’The Vatican rejected the Belgian protest as an “attempt to silence the Pope’s moral teaching”.

Official relations between the Vatican and Belgium are clouded with a certain ambiguity.

No concordat or treaty governs relations with the Holy See.

Belgium was part of France between 1795 and 1815 and the Napoleonic concordat between France and the Vatican signed at the beginning of the 19th century lapsed after Belgium became an independent state and separated from the Netherlands.

But the practical effects of the Napoleonic concordat were profound.

Its recognition of the Catholic religion paved the way later for full state subsidies for other “recognised religions”.

The Belgian state pays salaries for teachers of religion in state schools, stipends and pensions for Catholic clergy and for the renovation of church buildings.

Last week Pope Benedict appointed a new Bishop of Bruges to replace Roger Vangheluwe, the longest serving bishop in the country who resigned in April after admitting that he had been sexually abusing a boy for years.


  1. Sean Poland said,

    As a former Roman Catholic Priest (for 15 years) and now happily married, I can say without hesitation that I support the Belgium Police in their “raid” (not usually termed such when one has a warrant) of the Roman Catholic property. The fact of the matter is that Roman Catholic Rectories and Bishop Houses are frequently the centers for crimes against nature and in organized crime fashion, the Roman Catholic Church continue to cover the sins up with the help of their laity. It is a world wide crime committed by the Roman Catholic Church and every country ought to take to heart the great example of the Belgium Police in going to the necessary and great lengths to make sure children are safe.

  2. JohnBS1 said,

    I support the Belgium police in their taking control of these civil crimes. It is not the role of the church to investigate and determine on civil matters.

    Each country which fails to gain support from this will be doing a disservice to those they swear to protect. The Belgium police are the right authority and the only legal authority the people of Belgium have approved to undertake these investigations. Hopefully we will see arrests and punishment for those acting in a criminal and inhumane way. When Belgium law has determined the guilt or innocence of those under investigation then the church should be free to deal with it as they choose after all that is what living by the rule of law means for individuals. The Catholic or any other church deserves no exemption. The Catholic church, its bishops, priests and laity when it is involved in the sexual abuse of children deserves to be investigated by the law just as any other would be. Without that we have rule by religion – the past ability to rule by dictate is what the church is trying its hardest to cling to.

    Belgium and the Belgium police have become a beacon for justice across the globe not only from clergy abuse survivors but also the many who wish to see and end to the trading and dealing in the lives of survivors of sexual abuse and those who simply want to see equality, justice, human rights and genuine safety for children in all areas of life and the law as is expected in any democracy.

    Congratulations to the authorities for acting in an impartial manner in the conduct of their lawful investigation into the widespread sexual and other abuses by catholic clergy.

  3. entdinglichung said,

    I would prefer a workers militia raiding bishop’s palaces

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