Stefaan De Clerck is not amused

Secretary of Justice Stefaan De Clerck

With Magistrate Wim De Troy, that is.

“I maintain that I do not understand De Troy’s position. Why does this man flagrantly keep saying no? And an unfounded no at that. And if he has motives, let him make them known to us. Because I do not think he would wait with communicating this long if the court had agreed with him wholeheartedly.”

I”m no expert on the Belgian court system, but as far as I understand it, the court that Secretary De Clerck refers to is one which investigated the exact proceedings of the raid and the police investigation into the bishops of Belgium. It would have limited itself to statements about the legality of those proceedings. I’m not sure that that court had the power to forbid continuing investigation.

De Clerck met with court representatives (excluding De Troy) to figure out how the verdict could be made public as soon as possible, “for the benefit of all parties involved”, despite De Troy’s command to keep quiet. Only a full publication will give certainty of what will happen next. Will all the files, computers and paperwork indeed be returned to the bishops, the Archdiocese of Malines-Brussels and the offices of the formers Adriaenssens committee? Wait and see.

Something’s rotten in the state of Belgium

As the news concerning Thursday’s police raids in Belgium continues to come in every day, I find myself looking at an uncomfortable picture. I’m not normally one to go for conspiracy theories. I think these are too prevalent in the Catholic blogosphere anyway, but chance dictates that even some of these must sometimes be true.

Here is a very simple time table of events:

Thursday: Police raids, confiscation of documents and computers. Police possibly acts on accusations put forward by retired priest Fr. Rik Devillé. Nothing is found.

Secretary of Justice Stefaan De Clerck

Monday: The Adriaenssens commission disbands after all their case files are confiscated. They return their mandate to the bishops. Justice Secretary De Clerck creates a ‘work group’ of public prosecutors to try and keep the negative results of the commission’s disbanding in check.

Tuesday: Victims call for a parliamentary investigation into sexual abuse in the Church. Fr. Rik Devillé heralds this as the only satisfactory option.

One way to look at the progression of these events is as an orchestrated attempt to take the total anti-abuse effort out of the hands of the Church. While that is only normal for new cases that appear, it is not for the decades-old cases that the Adriaenssens commission was working in. The courts can’t do anything with those cases, since they are subject to a statute of limitations. The fact that they are being investigated show the Church taking the responsibility for the silence of many years. There was now obligation by law to look into these old cases, but there certainly was one towards the victims.

Fr. Rik Devillé

If, by some construction, the courts, or Secretary De Clerck’s ‘work group’, can do something with the 475 old cases taken from the commission, it will do little good. Often punishment if the offenders is not possible: they are either elderly or no longer alive. The prevalent desire among victims is to be heard and acknowledged. The one institution that can do that is the one closest to the offenders: the Church. The courts, the police, parliament or whoever can listen all they want: since they are not even slightly responsible it does not answer the victims’ desire. Also, the much-called-for need for the Church to clean up her past is made impossible. She must now rely on the action or inaction of others to achieve this, whereas before she had the means to do it herself.

And what of Fr. Rik Devillé, who is involved at the begin and the end (for now)? John L. Allen has an interview with him, and while Fr. Devillé’s raises some valid points, it is clear he has a man with an anti-hierarchical agenda, leaning strongly to the liberal left.

Orchestrated set of events or not, it is worrying. Very much so.