Sunday, June 27, 2010

"Surpising and Deplorable": B16 Slams Belgian Raids

Following Thursday's daylong police raids on the headquarters of the Belgian church, the Brussels chancery, the office handling its hierarchy's response to clergy sex-abuse allegations and the residence of retired Cardinal Godfried Danneels, the Holy See's response hasn't just become ever more incandescent, but increasingly high-profile with each passing day.

In comments to reporters yesterday, the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone SDB said that the church hadn't experienced anything of the kind "even under Communist regimes"... a Vatican statement Friday expressed "indignation... that the tombs of Cardinals Jozef-Ernest Van Roey and Léon-Joseph Suenens, deceased archbishops of Malines-Brussels, were violated" as, reportedly acting on a tip, the authorities drilled small holes in the stones, inserting cameras to check for documents... and now, this morning the Holy See Press Office released a letter of solidarity from the Pope to the freshly-installed Belgian primate, Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard of Mechelen-Brussels, translated into English here below:
In this sad moment, I wish to express my particular closeness and solidarity to you, dear brother in the episcopate, and to all the bishops of the church in Belgium, for the surprising and deplorable means with which the searches were conducted in the Cathedral of Mechelen and at the venue where the Belgian episcopate was meeting in a plenary session that, among other things, sought to address aspects linked to the abuse of minors on the part of members of the clergy. Many times I myself have underscored that these grave facts must be treated by the civil authorities and canonical ones, each with respect of their reciprocal specificity and autonomy. In that sense, I hope that justice might run its course, guaranteeing the fundamental rights of persons and institutions, respecting the victims, recognizing without prejudice those who are pledged to collaborate with it and in its refusal of everything that might obscure the noble tasks assigned to it.

In the assurance that I accompany with daily prayer the path of this Church, I willingly send my affectionate Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 27 June 2010.

Lost in the intense coverage of the searches -- which saw the properties in question sealed for some 10 hours and Belgium's ambassador to the Vatican summoned to the Apostolic Palace to receive a protest -- was Friday's appointment of a new head of the diocese of Bruges, where Bishop Roger Vangheluwe resigned in April after admitting that he sexually abused his nephew both prior to and after his 1984 elevation to the episcopacy.

The disgraced prelate will be succeeded by the lone auxiliary of Brussels, Bishop Jozef De Kesel.

Amid the torrent of abuse and cover-up revelations which've rocked the European church through this spring, the 73 year-old Vangheluwe is the lone bishop to have been accused of direct misconduct with a child.

While some three-quarters of Belgians identify as Catholic, as in the rest of Europe, participation rates among the faithful hover in the single digits.