Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher


Pope wrong to denounce Belgium raid

posted by Rod Dreher

Pope Benedict today issued a strong denunciation of the extraordinary police raid in Belgium on church properties — including police prying into tombs of deceased Belgian archbishops. Excerpt:

In an exceedingly rare personal message and rebuke of a sovereign country, the pontiff also stressed the church’s “autonomy” to conduct its own investigations and criticized the “lamentable methods” of Belgian police who last week detained bishops, confiscated files and even drilled into the tombs of at least one cardinal in the Brussels cathedral in a search for documents.
“On several occasions I have personally reiterated that such serious issues should be attended to by both civil and canon law, with respect for their reciprocal specificity and autonomy,” Benedict said in a statement circulated by the Vatican on Sunday.

Let me stipulate that I do not know if the Belgian raids were justified or unjustified. It seems outrageous that authorities would violate the tombs of deceased archbishops, looking for documents — but we don’t yet know what information the authorities had that led them to take those unusual actions. (If that information has been reported elsewhere, please share it in the comboxes). I’m going to withhold judgment on the appropriateness of the Belgian police action — both the grave-opening and the general raid — until more information is released, but desecrating a grave is pretty outrageous, and I hope they can offer a good reason for having done so.
One cannot blame the Pope for being disturbed by the raid, but I’m sorry to say that I don’t think the pontiff has much moral ground to stand on in this matter. As AFP reported:

Italy’s Corriere della Sera said the Belgian authorities acted following growing frustration with the Church, which under an agreement signed in the 1990s, was supposed to refer cases to prosecutors to pursue.

That did not happen. Given the record of the Church in these grave criminal matters, it takes a lot of chutzpah for the Holy Father to assert the Church’s “autonomy” to investigate itself. From John Allen’s blog, here’s a brief interview with a Belgian Catholic priest who has crusaded against clerical child abuse. Excerpt from Allen’s introduction to the interview:

Back in April, retired Belgian priest and anti-pedophilia crusader Fr. Rik Devillè told reporters that he had informed church authorities more than fifteen years ago about sexual abuse allegations against Bishop Roger Vangheluwe of Bruges, but no action was taken. Vangheluwe resigned on April 23, admitting that he had repeatedly abused his teenage nephew in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
Devillè, 65, served for thirty years as the pastor of the Church of St. John Bosco in Buizingen, in the southern zone of Brussels. In 1992, Devillè began collecting information on charges of sexual abuse by priests. Today he claims that an association he founded, “Rights and Liberty in the Church,” has more than 300 files on such cases.
In the wake of the recent police raid on church offices and residences in Belgium, the Italian newspaper La Stampa interviewed Devillè, 65, on June 27. Devillè described the raids as a “good thing,” saying “it’s about time that the justice system seeks out the guilty.”

Those who click through to the interview will find evidence that Fr. Deville is very liberal (e.g., he wants women priests). Personally, I believe he’s very wrong about that, but that has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not he is telling the truth about clerical sex abuse, or whether or not he’s right to have spoken up about it. It’s silly to have to say that, but I can hear some people right now, “Oh, well, he’s a big liberal, so we don’t have to pay attention to him.” As the abuse scandal in the U.S. proved over and over again, you could not tell who the “good guys” and the “bad guys” were in the Church based on their ideology. Liberal and conservatives within the Church covered up and lied and turned away; less often (alas), liberals and conservatives within the Church stood with and up for the victims.



Advertisement
Comments read comments(52)
post a comment
Robert C

posted June 27, 2010 at 6:05 pm


Benedict said nothing to mitigate civil prosecutions. Quite the contrary he ‘stressed that such crimes are handled by both civil and canon law’ and “respecting their reciprocal specificity and autonomy….In that sense, I hope that justice takes its course, guaranteeing the fundamental rights of people and institutions with respect to the victims, recognizing without prejudice all those who are committed to collaborating with justice and refuting all that which seeks to obscure its noble goals.”
It seems that the Belgian prosecutors office is playing CYA in the wake of the Dutroux case and highly cautious in the Bruges circumstance. I doubt that the deceased archbishops’ collection of pornography was interred with them.



report abuse
 

Peter

posted June 27, 2010 at 6:13 pm


Whenever I see someone compare the way the Catholic church is being treated during the current scandal to how Communist regimes treated it I wonder if whatever the Communists were claiming was true.
Captcha : mementos $80,000



report abuse
 

jh

posted June 27, 2010 at 6:13 pm


Speaking of agreements From WHispers Piece
“n nearby Leuven, east of Brussels, police also searched the premises of the independent church commission investigating hundreds of cases of alleged molestation by clergymen. They took all 475 files belonging to the commission, prompting bewilderment and panic among investigators and victims of sexual abuse….
The raids centred on the palace of Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, head of the Catholic church in Belgium, on the ancient town’s St Rombout’s cathedral, and on the residence of the former head of the church in Belgium, Cardinal Danneels….
The commission of inquiry is well-respected and is led by Peter Adriaenssens, one of Belgium’s top child abuse experts, whose office has received hundreds of complaints this year and who has threatened to resign should his work be impeded by the church hierarchy. He emerged as a national figure following the notorious Marc Dutroux paedophilia and murder case in 1996 and runs one of the country’s most respected child abuse centres.
He voiced outrage and shock at the police actions, saying he had been given no warning, and would now struggle to deliver a report on clerical sexual abuse he was preparing for October. Adriaenssens was in Amsterdam in the Netherlands on Wednesday when his offices were raided. He said that all files in his investigation, concerning 475 cases, had been taken away by the police.
“All day we’ve been getting mails and calls from victims in panic,” he said. “They agreed that we do a report, but they did not want others to see the material … No one asked us a single question. We have no idea why this happened now.”
Adriaenssens suggested that a wave of “paranoia” had developed around the flood of allegations coming to light in recent months in Belgium. “There were rumours that the commission was having secret talks with the bishops. Perhaps the investigating magistrate let himself be led by this paranoia.”
He added that the raids had thrown into question whether his commission would be able to continue its work. It was set up years ago but had vegetated until this year when the sexual abuse allegations and revelations spread rapidly across the world. The commission’s previous head had complained of a lack of co-operation from the church authorities.”
http://whispersintheloggia.blogspot.com/2010/06/in-belgium.html
Just at first glance the way this raid was conducted seems a tad over the top . One gets a sense it is more poliitcal than about justice



report abuse
 

Spambalaya

posted June 27, 2010 at 7:03 pm


At the moment, my first thought is that the Belgian authorities might be pursuing an investigation into the actions of the Church hierarchy in regards to past interference and suppression of allegations. That would explain why the Belgian police conducted swift raids and mass confiscation of records rather than issuing subpoenas to produce the materials.
Now we have to wait and see, of course.



report abuse
 

Mary Russell

posted June 27, 2010 at 7:08 pm


The NY Times piece does not imply that Pope Benedict thought the Church should be given sole authority to investigate crimes done by priests.
I’m afraid this is another example of Rod assuming the worst about Pope Benedict- I thought he was not going to cover the pope for a while now (especially after Mark Shea’s comments took him to task).



report abuse
 

J Cline

posted June 27, 2010 at 7:10 pm


Seems to me that if you are not Muslim or Catholic or what have you, you lack the knowledge or moral authority to criticize. Let he who is without sin throw the first stone.
I cannot think of one profession of trust in human history — teachers, politicians, scout leaders, lawyers, police officers, clergy, or any other — that did not have its share of pedophiles and other criminals. But I can think of few that have done, and continue to do, so much to ameliorate the misery of the human condition in so many places on earth as the Catholic Church.
That Catholics and their priesthood are assaulted at every turn by bigots, atheists, and apostates who seize scurrilious opportunities to do harm to one of the world’s historically greatest forces for civilization and charity — that is the real scandal.
Fact is, the Church has no larger a proportion of pedophiles than the teaching profession. This is on record by independent, non-RCC affiliated researchers. Do we go ransacking the offices of the National Education Association because .05% of the trained teachers in the country are suspected pedophiles?
I agree that the Church hierarchy could be more transparent in its approach; however, neither this, nor the presence of a tiny minority of criminals in its ranks, is any justification for bigoted attempts to take the Church apart brick by brick. (Or coffin by coffin, if you like, Belgium.)



report abuse
 

Deacon John M. Bresnahan

posted June 27, 2010 at 7:26 pm


If it were any other group having its graves raided and invaded in a fishing expedition for evidence the uproar from here and elsewhere would be deafening. It reminds me of some stories from the barbarian Dark Ages when they dug up bodies of famous alleged criminals, paraded their corpses through the streets, then put their heads on pikes and the rest of the bodies in a river.



report abuse
 

Fr. J

posted June 27, 2010 at 7:51 pm


It’s hard for me to see how a raid of this magnitude, involving the opening of graves, can be justified. On the other hand, it’s also hard to believe the idea that the Church will simply investigate herself, since a) that clearly hasn’t happened and b) issues of abuse involve the interest of the whole society and not just the Church.
That being said, I’d be interested to know, Rod, how you feel generally about the sovereignty of the Church in relation to the state. As a Christian, I presume that you would say that your allegiance to Christ trumps any and all allegiance to anything else, including the state. Yet in cases like this one, where the state becomes an instrument for policing the Church, how do we choose where our allegiance should rest? Is there a legitimate role for the state in policing the Church, and if so what is it?



report abuse
 

Christopher Blosser

posted June 27, 2010 at 8:04 pm


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[?]“
Source: http://rorate-caeli.blogspot.com/2010/06/thank-you-cardinal-danneels-2.html



report abuse
 

Jeannie Guzman

posted June 27, 2010 at 8:14 pm


Believers and former believers in many countries, also have had “continued frustration,” with the RCC, the Vatican and local bishops, archbishops and cardinals, as in every country on the planet, it seems that they all have taken the grand, papal “Art of Obfuscation” to new heights! Finally, no doubt due to the constant red-tape and roadblocks that the local bishops have placed in front of Belgium’s legal authorities, the government decided to act! Bravo, Belgium! From another account that I read today, it was suggested that the Vatican didn’t have “a Concordat” with Belgium. Again, Bravo, Belgium! How could have the Belgians escaped Pope Pius XII’s grand efforts, as Papal Nuncio, to form Concordats with EVERY Fascist government in Europe: Italy, Austria, Germany, Spain, Portugal and Croatia! Perhaps, tiny Belgium just wasn’t worth Pius XII’s efforts? Or perhaps Belgium just wasn’t Fascist enough? In any event, tiny Belgium has shown the world that it will stand up to Papal and Hierarchical tyranny, and that’s a pretty big thing! It’s something that no other country has stepped up the plate to do! Hats off to them! Long live Belgium, where 75% of the population is “Supposed to be Catholic,” but where only about 5% actually practice their faith! Again, Right On!



report abuse
 

Jim

posted June 27, 2010 at 8:21 pm


The old notion that the Church is beyond the civil law — or the criminal law — dies hard. Since the Church’s first impulse IN EVERY COUNTRY has been to stonewall the civil and criminal authorities, they are naive indeed to ask the authorities for special privileges.
Someday the Church will make its peace with democratic institutions. In the meantime, its feudal mindset will continue to bump up against reality.



report abuse
 

BobSF

posted June 27, 2010 at 8:23 pm


“reciprocal specificity and autonomy”
There are folks inside the Vatican who labor for days to write up things so that they sound good if you don’t think too hard about what they actually mean.
I have no sympathy for the hierarchy. Still, this does come across as overreach, especially in regard to the commission. Belgium is an odd country. People — including the police — do get caught up in emotions and even delusions. At the same time, let’s not pretend this is the most awful thing in history. No one was killed, for instance. Compared to previous “witch hunts”, this is pretty mild. So far.



report abuse
 

Richard

posted June 27, 2010 at 8:26 pm


Fr. J speaks wisdom, I think. But the raid certainly appears over the top – hard to say if that’s the case without any more information.
Serious question: Belgian citizens, Belgian property, Belgian laws and Belgian sovereignity. As a strict legal concept, what claim does the Catholic Church have to sovereignity here?



report abuse
 

Quiddity

posted June 27, 2010 at 8:58 pm


While the actions taken are exciting, and there’s a lot of shouting going on, I think we have to wait a while until we really know what’s going on.
Could be the Catholic Church has misbehaved, or the Belgian authorities. There is no way to tell at the moment.



report abuse
 

john

posted June 27, 2010 at 9:02 pm


The Pope’s squawking… therefore the police must be getting close to finding something criminal.



report abuse
 

Rod Dreher

posted June 27, 2010 at 9:10 pm


Agreed, the only thing any of us can say with certainty is that this raid was extraordinary. The Belgian police had better have had pretty solid probable cause (I’m speaking as a moral matter; I don’t have the slightest idea about Belgian legal procedure). But given the way Church hierarchs have conducted themselves in the matter of clerics criminally abusing children, nothing would surprise me — and nothing should surprise any of you.
Fr. J., your question is a good one. I do place my allegiance to Christ over my allegiance to the state. But that does not mean that I believe that clergy of my church (or any church) should have sovereign immunity from prosecution when they are guilty of lawbreaking. In my church, the Orthodox Church in America, there was a big financial scandal involving the previous primate. There was talk for a while that the FBI might be getting involved, and that His Beatitude might end up in jail. That would have been a terrible thing — but a just and necessary thing if he had been found guilty of criminal behavior in a fair trial. No man is above the law. It is a particular tragedy of Christians in this scandal that victims had to turn to the state — specifically, to civil courts — to force bishops to behave with basic human decency, to say nothing of Christian charity. But thank God for those courts not being under the thumb of the Catholic Church or any church!
[Captcha: longer sermon]



report abuse
 

FREDERICK

posted June 27, 2010 at 9:32 pm


BRAVO! Belguim
I have watched the church in New England for many years shift pervert priests from parish to parish never dealing with the problem. The Pope should be pleased with the Belgium police raid, in the long run it will save the church many expensive law suits. Any time children are left in hands of authority figures the potential for abuse exists. This happens with all religions and many organisations. I am pleased to see that the police in Belgium have taken all control from the church in these circumstances. Its about time.



report abuse
 

Rod Dreher

posted June 27, 2010 at 9:56 pm


It is worth contemplating as well why some people consider that “the Church” is being attacked by these police raids; are the victims of clerical molestation not the Church as well? Seriously. Assuming that the Belgian police had legitimate cause to do what they did — something I don’t think we yet know — I see it as the state intervening to protect the most vulnerable parts of the Church from the clergy. If that turns out to be the case, it is a true scandal and a shame that Christians have to depend on the secular state to receive justice for their children in such a matter.



report abuse
 

James Kabala

posted June 27, 2010 at 10:01 pm


While I probably should be prepared for anything that might come out of this scandal, I think it is highly unlikely that any documents were hidden in tombs, which seems more like a bad thriller than real life.



report abuse
 

SarahTX2

posted June 27, 2010 at 10:59 pm


It was reported that police asked the staff which parts of the building had had recent construction or renovation because the police had information that documents were hidden in an area that had recently been constructed or renovated. The staff pointed to the tombs as having been recently renovated. The police found that the tombs were sealed, and they drilled holes and put a camera in to look for hidden documents. I read this in a report in a Belgian newspaper which was translated. I can look for it if no one else came across it.



report abuse
 

SarahTX2

posted June 27, 2010 at 11:16 pm


I liked your column until you added in the part about wanting women priests has nothing to do with whether he is telling the truth. Wanting women priests or not wanting them is irrelevant to this discussion as you pointed out. So why did you bring it up? Do the readers here need that kind of prompting? Maybe some do, but aren’t they generally ignored when they express clearly irrelevant viewpoints?



report abuse
 

SarahTX2

posted June 27, 2010 at 11:31 pm


Having read through the comments, it looks like I should look for the report I read regarding the staff pointing to the tombs. I’m pretty sure it was a direct quote from the Belgian prosecutor. I will provide the link if I have time to find it tonight. It was authoritative, and it could have been linked to on the dotcommonweal website. My impression was the police had prior information that documents were hidden and the staff pointed to where they believed the documents might be. If that is so, and if the tombs were recently renovated, I don’t see any overreaching there. If the keepers of the tombs had themselves been drilling and laying bricks, where’s the injury?



report abuse
 

Judy Jones

posted June 28, 2010 at 12:06 am


This is the most telling and depressing indication of Pope Benedict’s true priorities.
It took years before he even acknowledged clergy sex crimes and cover ups, much less begin to express solidarity with victims. But just days after a handful of his colleagues in Belgium were inconvenienced for a few hours, the Pope vehemently rallies to their defense. Because they share his occupation, nine potential wrong-doers merit more prompt and vigorous support from the Pope than hundreds of thousands of deeply wounded child sex abuse victims and still-vulnerable children across the globe.
According to the Associated Press, Benedict “also repeated that such crimes are handled by both civil and canon law ‘respecting their reciprocal specificity and autonomy.’” It is reckless and arrogant to equate civil and canon ‘law.’ In most nations, civil law is drawn up by a wide range of individuals and interests in open discussion, not strictly by a small, narrow, homogeneous handful of church men behind closed doors. In most nations, civil law is enforced by independent institutions and processes, not by a distant monarch.
One key reason why priests are still raping kids and bishops are still concealing these crimes is because the Pope and most of the Catholic hierarchy still refuse to accept that investigating child sex crimes and cover ups is the role of law enforcement.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 22 years and have more than 9,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell)



report abuse
 

thomas tucker

posted June 28, 2010 at 12:48 am


Wow, quite the obfuscation by Judy Jones.
First, the Pope has spoken out and apologized for child abuse by clergy more than once. His history on that has no bearing on whether or not he should complain about the way police and prosecutors have acted in this instance.
Second, he did not equate civil and canon law.
Third, the reason any priest is still raping kids and any bishop may be covering itup is because people in this world do evil things. In fact, the Pope has called for the civil authorities to investigate these crimes.
Try again in your desire to inflame opposition to the Pope.
word captcha: “be licked.” I won’t even go there.



report abuse
 

Charles Cosimano

posted June 28, 2010 at 1:01 am


It is hard to resist chortling over this and I’m not resisting it at all. Canon Law will be the equivalent of Civil Law when the Pope has the divisions to enforce it.



report abuse
 

David

posted June 28, 2010 at 3:15 am


On the good side, at least Tony Hayward’s new job as PR adviser to the Vatican has got off to a good start.
Captcha: futile pragmatic. Indeed.



report abuse
 

Rod Dreher

posted June 28, 2010 at 7:40 am


Do the readers here need that kind of prompting?
Yes, some do — witness the one comment already by the person who responded by saying how unfair it is that people are attacking the Catholic Church when other churches, blah blah blah. That may well be true, but it’s a generic comment that somebody, and usually somebodies, posts no matter what the original blog post is.
I’m interested in what the Pope meant when he said that the two spheres of law — civil and canon — should operate within their respective spheres. Presumably he’s saying that the Church should be left alone to investigate its own problem. Is that a correct interpretation? If so, that’s incredibly, incredibly obtuse. Benedict is not an obtuse man, so I suspect I’ve got this wrong. On the other hand, I know that has historically been the Catholic Church’s point of view, as a general matter. It once taught that the clergy should not be subject to the indignity of being tried in the secular legal system, if I’m not mistaken.



report abuse
 

Ian

posted June 28, 2010 at 8:30 am


Fr. J asks an obtuse question. The relationship between church and state was set out long ago: render to God what is God’s, render unto Caesar what is Caesar’s.
Apart from that, I do consider that there is an effort to damage this Pope. It is possibly being done because he is German, and served in the German military during the late world war.



report abuse
 

Jim

posted June 28, 2010 at 9:00 am


The Church has been fighting for almost a thousand years over the notion of the “benefit of clergy”, as it was known under English law. Thomas a Becket’s assertion that the clergy were exempt from the King’s law was the start of his road to martyrdom. One wonders if one would be declared a martyr today for asserting that clerics are not subject to the criminal law.
It’s an idea that is deeply rooted in the medieval notion that the Church and the civil authorities are wholly separate. Of course, the Church has always also insisted that the Church have a voice in the civil sphere. It’s known as wanting it both ways. Like wanting to dictate civil legislation and be exempt from being subject to search warrants.



report abuse
 

thomas tucker

posted June 28, 2010 at 9:16 am


Rod- I do think you are misinterpreting what the Pope said, based on the whole current statement and all of his previous statements. He is saying that the Church needs to be free to use its canon law, for example in investigating whether an ordained cleric should be laicized. That is different from the civil authoritites investigating whether or not a criminal act has been committed. The focus of canpn law is different from civil/criminal law, as it should be.



report abuse
 

Beth

posted June 28, 2010 at 9:18 am


This raid on the church offices may well be justified. This account from “The American Catholic” tells of a disgusting Catholic “catechism” which was distributed to children in Belgium, and the efforts of a Belgian Catholic mother to halt its publication. The ‘catechism” had drawings of young children, and encouraged sexual molestation. Protests against it fell on the deaf ears of then Cardinal Daneels.
http://the-american-catholic.com/2010/06/27/the-disgrace-of-cardinal-danneels-and-the-belgian-catholic-church/?utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+AmericanCatholic+%28American+Catholic%29



report abuse
 

The Man From K Street

posted June 28, 2010 at 9:32 am


The irony of this particular case, of course, is that it is far more probable that the Catholic Church will be in business at the end of the 21st century than Belgium still existing as a sovereign entity at the end of–this year. I’m not kidding. If the Eurozone cracks up this fall, which is a distinct possibility, I’d put even money on the current devolution plurality in the Belgian polity becoming a separatist majority almost overnight. Even if the Euro isn’t the proximate cause, it’s clear that just one more hit (a double-dip recession, an act of political violence) will be the final blow shattering the already-cracked shell called “Belgium”. It will not last any further past 2012 at the latest.
And that’s the context outside observers have to see this abuse case in. Prosecutors and police who see that their system is circling the drain of history have been known to desperately engage in prosecutions designed to stave off things by diverting attention, and to position themselves for the post-collapse order.



report abuse
 

Fr Joseph Ponessa SSD

posted June 28, 2010 at 9:40 am


Because the comments on this site are more elevated in tone than those on other sites, I shall post some reflections.
(1) The Belgian state pays the salaries and benefits of the Belgian bishops, as in the phrase “state church.” Separation of church and state is not so strict as in America, where the boundaries are constitutionally guaranteed. This gives the state more latitude to intervene legally, but requires the church to be more vigilant in asserting her rights.
(2) The Belgian hierarchy meet monthly rather than semi-annually as the American hierarchy does. That would put them in a position to communicate collectively with the civil authorities on a more regular basis. That the raid took place at the scheduled time of their monthly meeting, where they were detained for nearly ten hours, seems to indicate an attempt by the judicial authorities to humiliate, not just to investigate.
(3) The fact that the ambassador from the Vatican was detained with the bishops is a serious breach of diplomatic protocol. Remember the keeping of the American diplomats hostage in Iran? The correct way of expressing displeasure with the Vatican would have been to remove the diplomatic credentials and send the ambassador home. Seizure of computers with diplomatic documents on them also violates international law. I imagine that countries like USA or Russia would never tolerate such actions against their ambassadors.
(4) No doubt the Belgian judiciary has the subpoena power. If they wanted documents from the church they could have issued a subpoena as American courts have done. To go directly from negotiation to seizure seems to have skipped the intermediate step. In America this would never be done to a legal corporation.
(5) The last time that church documents were seized in Belgium was in 1940, when the Nazis confiscated baptismal records. As a result many Catholics who had a Jewish ancestor were arrested and shipped to concentration camps, never to return. Most Belgians over the age of 75 will have a painful memory of this violation of church integrity, and the families of those exterminated are reliving their grief.
(6) The resignation of the highly respected head of the church investigatory panel shows that the civil actions did severe damage to the work of Catholics who were trying to be part of the solution. If the church files demonstrated collusion by the judiciary in cover-up, then the raids could have been motivated by an attempt to destroy evidence damaging to judges. If that had been the intent, the raid was greatly successful.
(7) Belgian law follows the Napoleonic code, and precedent does not have the same force it does in Anglo-Saxon law. Still, agents of the law must avoid roughing up the objects of investigation, or it will become habit-forming. As the Nuremburg Court established, the first time rights are denied by a judge, the judge becomes guilty of all the consequences. Brussels is one of the capitals of the European Union, which has an increasingly hostile political stance towards the church. When the state wants to fight with the church, it has all of the assets. Is this an opening skirmish in yet another round of pillaging, as happened in the 16th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries?
(8) The comparison with Communist treatment of bishops is egregious. When the Red Army occupied Ruthenia, the bishop was shot. Over half the Russian clergy were dead by the end of the Revolution. That was far worse than what the Belgians have just done to the dignity of their bishops.
(9) As we know, the KGB enlisted collaborators by trapping them in sexual situations. In Eastern Europe — and probably to some degree in Western also — there were priests and bishops who collaborated, and that problem overlaps with the pedophile problem. Not all collaborators were pedophiles, and not all pedophiles were collaborators, but the Communists had better files on the clergy than the church did, and they built a network of infiltration that was so tight that its grip still survives. In America the church was able to handle the pedophilia crisis by purging offending priests and bishops and establishing better procedures. Because in Europe outside forces were involved in pulling the strings the systemic problem is much more complex. The Belgian raids will probably not cast any light on that problem.
(10) My expertise is not legal, but scriptural. The legal and political aspects of this crisis are highly technical, but less central than the spiritual aspects. The church has a mission statement–Go and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Anything that contradicts this mission must be expurgated, and if the mission is forgotten then the contradictions will flourish. This particular crisis is symptomatic of a loss of the sense of purpose. Essential to the solution is for the church to rediscover her own reason for existing.



report abuse
 

Nixon is Lord

posted June 28, 2010 at 11:11 am


Ironically, many of the same “progressives” who are pleased by this would scream bloody murder, even “sacrilege” and “violation of sanctuary” if the Immigration authorities took out illegal aliens from a church.
Why not be consistent and admit that the Middle Ages are over? No more special privileges for religion: no tax breaks, no “sanctuary”, no “we’ll take care of these child molesters ourselves”.



report abuse
 

Robert C

posted June 28, 2010 at 12:14 pm


Thank you Father. An erudite analysis by any measure. One other observation if I may. Not knowing how many here may have lived in Belgium or even visited, let alone have had any contact with the Belgian police or prosecutors offices, I can tell you from first hand experience that the ranks of the Local Police in Brussels are rife with ultra right wing neo nazis with a list of vendettas. Not the least of which, rightly or wrongly, is a seething intolerance for the liberal positioning of the church in Belgium by Cardinal Daneels.
The above stated misrepresentations from Ms. Jones is in itself rather sinful. It demonstrates at the very least a careless lack of understanding of canon law that is obtuse, and at best a slanted PR veneer for a self asgrandized group of bigots. No the pontiff is not, and has not stated that the church is to be left alone to solve this problem. Civil law will proceed to adjucate criminal acts while canon law will adjucate breeches in responsibility towards priestly function. Circumstances may present instances of overlap however one does not mitigate the other. It is interesting to note that Belgium was the country that enacted a ‘universal jurisdiction’ law where anyone could file charges in a Belgian court for any purported war crime anywhere in the world. It lead to a rash of indictments against most of the prime figures in the US government until the law was annulled by the Court of Arbitration. As Father points out, Belgium is under the Napoleonic code. Belgium is also confusingly conflicted administratively between Flemish interests and Walloon interests. This action was handled by the Federale Politie. In their system the federal investigations are conducted mainly at a decentralised level in the 27 “Decentralised Judicial Directorates” and are supervised by the individual prosecutors themselves. They need no approved warrant issued by a judge to proceed.
As to the Belgian catechism, have you seen some of the sex-ed books published throughout Europe or even here? Dear lord the city is now distributing condoms to eight year olds in Provincetown.



report abuse
 

Jack B

posted June 28, 2010 at 12:39 pm


You note the difficulty in telling the “good guys” from the “bad guys” in the US scandal. In 2002, 58 “good guys” in Boston stood up for the good and found the virtue and courage to write an extraordinary public letter to Law calling on him to resign. The names and letter remain available:
http://www.boston.com/globe/spotlight/abuse/stories3/121002_letter.htm
Imagine where we would be today if 58 “good guys” spoke out in each of the countries where the abuse scandal is erupting. We might be on the way to getting out of the swamp.



report abuse
 

Robert C

posted June 28, 2010 at 1:35 pm


Well. Interesting that you bring up Massachusetts. After years of investigation there is yet another indictment of Rabbi Stanley Z. Levitt in a multitude of abuse cases dating back to the 70′s. He is still a rabbi. Would be very hard to find 56 good guys on this one though.
http://www.boston.com/news/local/massachusetts/articles/2010/06/27/ex_mass_rabbi_charged_again_in_child_abuse/



report abuse
 

Unapologetic Catholic

posted June 28, 2010 at 1:58 pm


“In America this would never be done to a legal corporation.”
it’s doen every day. You dont; serve a subpoean for records you sspect will eb destroyed. Typcially the search warrent is extremely invasive, usaullya t gun point and employees are sequestered or possibly sent home. Computers, office rcords, telephones and data devicesare routinely seized.
“As a strict legal concept, what claim does the Catholic Church have to sovereignity here?”
The same as the FLDS churhc and compound–practically none.



report abuse
 

nnmns

posted June 28, 2010 at 3:47 pm


Robert, surely no one here would claim Rabbis aren’t occasionally perverts, too. But did his boss (does he have a boss?) hide his crimes and move him to another area to prey on more children? If that did happen, his boss should be facing justice, too. As should be the bosses of all those priests who hid their crimes.



report abuse
 

Robert C

posted June 28, 2010 at 6:49 pm


Oh pishposh! Try the Boy Scouts. More than the usual share of molesters. You don’t see them sequestering the Chief Scout Executive or the National Council, do you? The Boy Scouts though can legally forbid the hiring of open homosexuals and the dismissal of ‘discovered’ ones. The ranting and railing against the catholic church is a concerted, orchestrated, virulent, bigoted, liberal led parade to squash conservative christian thinking. As for the rabbinate. Well Almost all countries or major cities with a jewish population have a chief Rabbi, except the US. There are however, rabbinal associations which could take action.
.



report abuse
 

nnmns

posted June 28, 2010 at 7:36 pm


Hey, I won’t stand up for the BS’s till they let atheists and homosexuals in. And anyway if they hide criminals they should certainly face the music too.
And I won’t carry water for Rabbis either. Fulminate against them all you want; it’s fine with me.
But it is very significant and worth noting over and over that the RCC, which sees fit to not only tell its members how to live but also has the gall to try to tell the rest of us how to live, has enough immorality in it to last any organization decades. And clearly its concern is not those harmed but its reputation and riches.
I will indeed shout from the rooftops that it has no moral base to stand on to try to tell us how to live.



report abuse
 

Siarlys Jenkins

posted June 28, 2010 at 11:08 pm


Bottom line, the Pope is claiming a special privileged position for The Church, at least special consideration from the civil law, if not outright immunity.
If the raid was legal by Belgian law, if the evidence is sufficient, if any other voluntary institution or business or private citizen could have been subjected to the same treatment based on the same evidence, then the church has not been wronged.
If Belgian law is badly written and oppressive, perhaps the church should stand up for a change in the law — for everyone, not just for the church as a special privilege.
If Belgian police are a haven for neo-Nazis, then that is what needs to change, not the lack of special status for the church.



report abuse
 

Goodguyex

posted June 29, 2010 at 6:20 am


The raid was just a PR stunt to compensate for earlier failures of prosecution of pediphiles.
This action is not normal are not living in normal times.



report abuse
 

Ian

posted June 29, 2010 at 10:44 am


The name of the cleric supporting the raids? Fr. Rik Deville, with an accent on the last e. Bizarre.



report abuse
 

KMC

posted June 29, 2010 at 3:39 pm


The Belgian Hierarchy themselves were the first ones who had recently opened up the disturbed grave. The police investigators heard about it from a cleric on the scene of the day of the raid & also opened it again, just as a precaution to see if it held of the evidence that they were seeking in the entire complex…
Since the track record of the Belgian Hierarchy has not been very cooperative in the past with submitting evidence asked for in legal procedings, then the police raided them without prior notice.
JUST LIKE ANYONE ELSE, THE BELGIAN HIERARCHY IS BOUND BY THE LAWS OF THE COUNTRY, so why are they complaining when they are treated to a “lockdown” during a police investigation???



report abuse
 

Robert C

posted June 29, 2010 at 5:25 pm


The Vatican was not complaining about the investigation, it was complaining specifically about the process, or even more so the lack of due process. Holding the Papal Nuncio was a breech of international law under the Vienna Convention and compromised diplomatic immunity. Violating a tomb without a warrant was unseemly and should be considered a disgraceful act no matter what culture.
Of course the Belgian hierarchy is bound by the laws of that state. Thwe agreement is encapsulated in The Concordat with Belgium of 1827. which extended the provisions of the Concordat of 1801 to Belgium.
According to Articles 4 and 5 the of that concordat, “the Government was to present the new bishops, but the pope was to give them canonical institution. (See PRESENTATION; CANONICAL INSTITUTION; NOMINATION.) The bishops were to appoint as parish priests such persons only as were acceptable to the Government (Art. 9); the latter, in turn, stipulated that such churches as had not been alienated, and were necessary for worship, would be placed “at the disposition” of the bishops (Art. 12).” Under the concordat therefore the belgian government could be specifically and additionally liable for crimes by clergy. So “lockdown” the king and the prime minister while your at it.



report abuse
 

Peter

posted June 29, 2010 at 6:29 pm


I’m no expert on the history of Europe but a quick read of the wiki article seems to indicate Belgium didn’t even exist until 1830.



report abuse
 

Goodguyex

posted June 30, 2010 at 12:35 pm


Part of the problem is unseen. Belgium is falling apart just like Yugoslavia, Czekoslovakia, etc.
The glue that held it together is gone. Part of that glue was religon. The Flemish and tha Wallons people are different and do not now have much to do with each other.
We are not living in normal times.



report abuse
 

Robert C

posted July 1, 2010 at 10:32 am


Here is a more in depth exploration of that period than wiki.
http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/02395a.htm



report abuse
 

Peter

posted July 1, 2010 at 2:24 pm


Maybe I should read the section “Independent Belgium (1830-1905)”



report abuse
 

firestar99

posted November 15, 2011 at 2:24 am


I completely agree… the church should have cooperated with local police in stopping child abuse. It is clear that the churches own internal investigation was flawed at best, or it was deliberately ignoring the ongoing abuse at worst.



report abuse
 

Riley

posted July 23, 2014 at 10:22 pm


Hurrah, that’s what I was exploring for, what a information! existing here at this web site, thanks admin of this website.



report abuse
 

Post a Comment

By submitting these comments, I agree to the beliefnet.com terms of service, rules of conduct and privacy policy (the "agreements"). I understand and agree that any content I post is licensed to beliefnet.com and may be used by beliefnet.com in accordance with the agreements.



Previous Posts

Another blog to enjoy!!!
Thank you for visiting Rod Dreher. This blog is no longer being updated. Please enjoy the archives. Here is another blog you may also enjoy: Most Recent Scientology Story on Beliefnet! Happy Reading!!!

posted 3:25:02pm Aug. 27, 2012 | read full post »

Mommy explains her plastic surgery
In Dallas (naturally), a parenting magazine discusses how easy it is for mommies who don't like their post-child bodies to get surgery -- and to have it financed! -- to reverse the effects of time and childbirth. Don't like what nursing has done to your na-nas? Doc has just the solution: Doctors say

posted 10:00:56pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »

Why I became Orthodox
Wrapping up my four Beliefnet years, I was thinking about the posts that attracted the most attention and comment in that time. Without a doubt the most popular (in terms of attracting attention, not all of it admiring, to be sure) was the October 12, 2006, entry in which I revealed and explained wh

posted 9:46:58pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »

Modern Calvinists
Wow, they don't make Presbyterians like they used to!

posted 8:47:01pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »

'Rape by deception'? Huh?
The BBC this morning reported on a bizarre case in Israel of an Arab man convicted of "rape by deception," because he'd led the Jewish woman with whom he'd had consensual sex to believe he was Jewish. Ha'aretz has the story here. Plainly it's a racist verdict, and a bizarre one -- but there's more t

posted 7:51:28pm Jul. 21, 2010 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.