Belgian broadcast corporation VRT reports that a court in Brussels has decided that the investigation of abuse in the Catholic Church in Belgium may continue. That investigation started with a police raid on the offices of the Archdiocese of Malines-Brussels, the cathedral, the office of the Adriaenssens commission, the home of Cardinal Danneels, and even the graves of deceased cardinals. The Belgian bishops and the nuncio who, as a diplomat, should enjoy diplomatic immunity, were held for almost a full day while police searched for evidence of abuse cases withheld from the courts. None, it now seems, was found.
The official court verdict, reached after the archdiocese lodged an official protest against the raid, is that the investigation may continue and that the examining magistrate responsible may remain in function. He did suffer criticism for his execution of the raid, it is said. However, the verdict itself remains secret.
Lawyer Walter van Steenbrugge (left), representing six of the victims, said: “We had expected to be able to respond to the verdict, but now we know nothing. This is beyond shameful. This is fundamentally at odds with one of the most important articles in the criminal code, which says that victims have the right to receive information about the state of their case. What’s now happening is the exact opposite, and in the context of these very delicate files of seriously aggrieved victims that is very strange.”
A positive side note is that all the files and items taken will have to be returned to the archdiocese, although the judge still need to officially announce that.
So, how further? Not in openness and clarity, I fear. Without a public verdict it will remain unclear if the raid was justified. The victims, who had submitted their cases to the Adriaenssens commission, are still in limbo, not knowing who, if anyone, will now help them.
Thank you, Magistrate Wim De Troy, for destroying what took courage and pain on the part of the victims to achieve.