Rod Dreher

This is big:

BRUSSELS — Police raided the home and office of the recently retired archbishop of Belgium on Thursday, carrying off documents and a personal computer as part of an investigation into the sexual abuse of children by Roman Catholic priests, officials said.
Police and prosecutors would not say if former Archbishop Godfried Danneels was suspected of abuse himself or simply had records pertaining to allegations against another person.
Separately, police seized the records of an independent panel investigating sexual abuse by priests, some 500 cases in all. The head of the panel called the raid a huge violation of the privacy of people — mostly men now in their 60s and 70s — who have lived with the shame of abuse.
The raids followed recent statements to police “that are related to the sexual abuse of children within the church,” said Jean-Marc Meilleur, a spokesman for the Brussels prosecutor’s office. He would not offer specifics on the case.
Police took documents, but did not question Danneels at his home in the city of Mechlin, north of Brussels, said Hans Geybels, the spokesman for the former archbishop.
“They did take away his computer,” he said.
Geybels added Danneels was fully cooperating. “The cardinal believes justice must run its normal course. He has nothing against that,” he said
Danneels was a leading liberal voice in Europe’s church before he retired in January.

I couldn’t read this without thinking about the notorious Belgian murderer, pedophile and sex-slaver Marc Dutroux, whose case was so badly mishandled by authorities in the 1990s that many came to believe he was being protected by people higher up. Dutroux claimed he was part of a larger conspiracy, but he presented no evidence for this. A parliamentary enquiry found that there was no conspiracy. Here is a 1997 report explaining why many people believe there was — note especially the Nihoul bit toward the bottom. For more information, see this 2002 report from the BBC. These details make it very hard to believe that Dutroux acted alone.
Obviously there has been no linkage between Dutroux and churchmen, at least none that I’m aware of. Please don’t read this item as making that link! I simply wanted to note how extraordinary it was that Belgian police have raided the retired cardinal archbishop’s home, and taken away his computer — and how that brings to mind the controversies over the Dutroux scandal, and the belief many Belgians had that powerful establishment figures were at risk of exposure, and worked to thwart a full airing of the evidence. The Belgian press has been reporting on the Church’s alleged efforts to throw investigators off the trail of discovering evidence of clerical child molestation, which brings up bad memories of the Dutroux scandal, and possible cover-ups by men in high places. Point is, this astonishing raid on the cardinal’s palace takes place in a certain context.
UPDATE: The NYT report quotes a Vatican expert as saying this sort of raid is extremely rare, especially in that it invaded a cardinal’s residence. Apparently the Belgian bishops were meeting together at the archepiscopal palace when the raid took place, and were not allowed to leave until it was over. Extraordinary. I misunderstood that the retired Cdl. Danneels’ home is not the same place as the palace. You may remember that a Belgian bishop resigned earlier this year after admitting to having sexually abused a boy earlier in his career. Meanwhile, the layman who heads a church commission investigating abuse within the Belgian church is angry that the police took all his files, in part because he fears that confidentiality will be compromised.

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