Belgian authorities on Thursday heightened pressure on the Roman Catholic Church in a sexual abuse scandal, raiding the Belgian church headquarters, the home of a cardinal and the offices of a commission established by the church to handle abuse complaints.

Child abuse in the headquarters of Belgium’s Catholic Church - Comment on 2010 June 25

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2010 June 25
Worldwide the Catholic Church was shaken in the past months by a wave of disclosures about cases of abuse in different countries, also in Belgium. At the end of April the scandal reached a climax when the bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, stepped down. Vangheluwe was the first bishop, who officially explained his resignation with self committed child abuse. Read more:

I now bring some excerpts from reports I read today, the 25th of June 2010:

After accusations because of child abuse the headquarters of Belgium’s Catholic Church in the Flemish Mechelen has been searched. This was confirmed by a spokesman of the Brussels public prosecutor’s office on Thursday.

The residence is the headquarter of the Catholic Church in Belgium. There the highest ranking Catholic clergyman of the country resides, Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard.

Worldwide the Catholic Church was shaken in the past months by a wave of disclosures about cases of abuse in different countries, also in Belgium. At the end of April the scandal reached a climax when the bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, stepped down.

Vangheluwe was the first bishop, who officially explained his resignation with self committed child abuse. Archbishop Léonard, who is in office since the beginning of the year, promised after that a zero tolerance policy against child abuse.

Belgian authorities on Thursday heightened pressure on the Roman Catholic Church in a sexual abuse scandal, raiding the Belgian church headquarters, the home of a cardinal and the offices of a commission established by the church to handle abuse complaints.

Police officers arrived at the church headquarters, the palace of the archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, on Thursday morning while the monthly bishops meeting was in progress, a church spokesman said. The police questioned all of those present, from bishops to staff members like cooks and drivers.

The police came in and said the house would be searched because there were complaints about sexual abuse on the territory of the archdiocese.

The authorities are investigating accusations that Belgian clerics sexually abused children, according to officials. Hundreds of such claims have been raised since April, when the bishop of Bruges, Roger Vangheluwe, admitted to molesting a boy and resigned.

The authorities’ decision to search church property, question bishops and seize documents and other potential evidence was a major departure in such investigations and a sign that in criminal matters the church will not be afforded special treatment here.

Barbara Dorris, outreach director for the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said in a statement that the raid was “precisely what’s needed, not just in Belgium but in other church offices across the globe.”

Ms. Dorris added, “Police and prosecutors need to step up, and promptly and thoroughly investigate allegations against predator priests and corrupt bishops, and use their full powers to gain access to and control over church records that likely document the crimes and cover-ups.”

The RTL television station in Belgium reported the raid on the home of Cardinal Godfried Danneels, who retired in January as archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels. The cardinal’s computer was removed, RTL said. Mr. Tornielli, the Vatican expert, said that to the best of his knowledge, the cardinal would have diplomatic immunity as a Vatican official, and would have to have given permission for a police search of his home.

 

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