By Susan Brinkmann, OCDS
The Vatican is expressing outrage over the raiding of church offices and the opening of two Archbishops’ tombs by Belgian authorities in search of information pertaining to alleged sex abuse scandals in that country.
AOLNews.com is reporting that Belgian police interrupted a meeting of clerics last Thursday at the Church’s headquarters in Brussels, confiscating cell phones and preventing people from leaving while the dpolice conducted a nine-hour search of the building in search of any incriminating evidence relating to the sexual abuse of minors.
At the same time, investigators raided the home of retired Archbishop Godfried Danneels and took his computer. They also forced him to accompany them to church headquarters where investigators “tapped on boards and looked for hidden spaces” where information might be hidden.
Even more bizarre, London’s Telegraph is reporting that police, acting on a tip that files about sex abuse had been hidden in tombs, opened the graves of two Belgian bishops to check for hidden documents. Apparently, investigators drilled open the tombs and inserted cameras to check the contents.
The raids were prompted by recent allegations that figures within the church had sexually abused children. One official claims the seizure of material was intended to help determine whether the claims were justified.
Arcchbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, Belgium’s current archbishop, condemned the raids, calling them the “purview of crime novels” and “The Da Vinci Code.”
Meanwhile, the Vatican is expressing astonishment and outrage over the raids with Pope Benedict XVI calling them “deplorable.” Vatican Secretary of State, Cardinal Tarsicio Bertone, told ANSA the raids were an “unheard of and grave fact” for which there “are no precedents, not even in communist regimes.”
The possibility of legal action against the Belgian authorities is currently being considered.
Fernand Kueleneer, attorney for the Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels, told the AFP he doubts the raids were legal. He also criticized the fact that television cameras were on the scene even before police arrived on Thursday, raising questions about whether or not the raids were carried out with the necessary discretion and confidentiality.
He also said that Church property seized during the raids, such as computers and cell phones, had not yet been returned and was preventing the diocese from functioning.
“If we finally come to the conclusion that this was not legitimate and not proportional,” he will recommend that the Church take legal action, Kueleneer said.
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