Yesterday’s police intervention in the Archdiocese of Malines-Brussels now looks to have been excessively forceful. Not only didn’t the police find any ‘held back paedophilia files’, but in order to do that, they detained all Belgian bishops for nine hours. The bishops had gathered for their monthly meeting. Together with the personnel they were held in one room, forced to surrender their mobile phones and other communication equipment. Although the bishops have stated to have full confidence in the Justice Department, which is why they cooperated fully, to me this sounds as if the bishops are already considered criminals. The only thing lacking is evidence. A very worrying development.
But this, together with the disruptions in the German Diocese of Augsburg, where Bishop Mixa has now accepted his resignation and promised not to challenge it again, is what we can expect more of in the near future. The abuse crisis can lead to nothing else but a full overhaul of everything that helped in covering up the crimes. And that will mean resignations, police investigations and the like. But, as in all things, these need good reason and agreements between all parties to have full effect. If one party does not agree with a bishop’s resignation, we get an Augsburgian situation. If the Justice department ignores agreements made and decides to investigate cases which are many years old and thus subject to the statute of limitations, we get Belgian situations.
A major overhaul, with all the discomfort and chaos it entails, is a simple necessity. But it must be done right to have full effect. And that’s still not happening everywhere.
Translation of the press statement from the bishops, which I linked to above:
“The bishops of Belgium were present in the Archbishop’s house around 10:15 this morning, Thursday 24 June 2010, for the monthly meeting of the Bishops’ Conference. A short while later, around 10:30, members of the Justice department and police officers arrived with a search warrant. At the basis of this are said to have been complaints of sexual abuse within the territory of the archdiocese. More explanation was not given to those present, but immediately all documents and mobile phones were confiscated. No one was allowed to leave the building. Only at 19:30 was that lifted.
Everyone, both the members of the Bishops’ Conference and the personnel of the archdiocese, was interrogated. That was not automatically a pleasant experience, but everything was handled correctly. The bishops have always said that they have full confidence in the courts and their work. They underwent the search of this morning with the same confidence and that is also the reason why they will refrain from any comment at this time.
On the other hand, with Prof. Peter Adriaenssens, chairman of the ‘Committee for the investigation of sexual abuse in the framework of a pastoral relation’, they regret that all the files of the committee were seized during another search. This goes against the right on confidentiality which the victims who have contacted the committee have. An action like this seriously affects the necessary and exemplary work of the committee.”