Tuesday June 29, 2010

Belgian Church Raids Compared to Babylonian Chastisement

By Hilary White

BRUSSELS, June 28, 2010 ( – A police raid, the detaining of bishops and the confiscation of files on priestly sexual abuse can be seen as a form of chastisement for decades of open dissent from Catholic teaching by Church authorities in Belgium, a prominent pro-life leader has said.

Brussels police raided the offices of the Brussels Archdiocese on Thursday, searched the cathedral and seized computers and files from the residences of both the current archbishop of Brussels and Cardinal Godfreed Daneels who retired as the head of the church in Belgium in January. Police said the raids, conducted while bishops were meeting in the building, were in connection with allegations of sex abuse by clergy and the Belgian hierarchy’s long history of cover-ups.

Fr. Tom Euteneuer, author and head of Human Life International (HLI) told (LSN) that he stands with the pope and unconditionally condemns the actions of police as “a massive violation of confidentiality” of victims who had confided in Church authorities, and a “brutal police action” against the Church.

At the same time, however, he pointed to the years of public antagonism by Belgium’s Catholic leadership to the Church’s sexual moral teaching that furnished the heavily secularist government with the excuse needed for the attack.

“How is it possible,” Fr. Euteneuer said, “to see this as anything but retribution for the sins of a church that has for the past four decades been in a state of continuous public dissent?”

The raids were denounced by Pope Benedict XVI who decried the “surprising and deplorable manner in which searches were carried out.” Tarcisio Bertone, the Vatican’s Cardinal Secretary of State, launched a formal protest to the Belgian ambassador to the Holy See saying, “there are not precedents – not even under the old Communist regimes” for such treatment of the Church by secular authorities.

Fr. Euteneuer said that, “God sometimes allows the actions of pagans to punish and correct the abuses of His beloved people. Whatever the interpretation of the aggressive action of the police, let’s just take it as a wake-up call for a return to orthodoxy and fidelity to Christ.”

On Thursday, police burst into the cathedral of Mechelen-Brussels even searching the crypt where past bishops are buried. They confiscated 450 files containing reports of sexual offences by clergy that had already been submitted to an internal Church investigation committee. Police sealed off the building where bishops were holding a meeting, detaining them for several hours and confiscating their mobile phones.

Pope Benedict XVI, in a message to the recently appointed archbishop of Brussels, Andre-Mutien Leonard, asked authorities to respect the rights of victims, whose statements, given in confidence to the Church’s independent investigation committee, were also seized.

The Belgian bishops have responded to the raids by shutting the committee down. Its chairman, child psychiatrist Peter Adriaenssens, said that Belgian authorities had betrayed the trust of nearly 500 victims who had made complaints over the past two months. He blamed state prosecutors for pursuing victims too traumatized to speak to police. “We were bait,” he said.

Cardinal Danneels, who has long been a leading light of the Catholic Church’s left-liberal “progressivist” wing in Europe, was said to be “seriously shocked” by the police’s actions. A spokesman said “I can assure you that the cardinal had envisioned his retirement very differently.”

Danneels, for decades a major European voice of opposition to the Catholic teaching on artificial contraception and homosexuality, was the close colleague and protector of Bishop Roger Vangheluwe of Bruges. Vangheluwe resigned in April after admitting to having sexually abused boys, including his own nephew, before and throughout his time as a bishop. Following these revelations the Church established the independent commission which was immediately flooded with hundreds of complaints of sexual abuse by priests.

A long-time favourite of the world’s secular media, Danneels figured prominently in an article published on the same day as the raids, detailing opposition to efforts by parents to stop a sexually explicit “catechism text” written and approved by Belgian Catholic authorities for use by children and teens.

The text includes a drawing of a naked infant girl, captioned to show her saying that she enjoyed having sex acts being performed on her and watching her parents have sex. Politician and author Alexandra Colen quoted a letter she had sent to Danneels in 1997 protesting the text that she said, “breeds pedophiles.” She said that when she went public in her fight against the text, she was joined by hundreds of parents who revealed more explicit sex practices being taught to children in Catholic schools around the country.

At the news website Brussels Journal, Colen said that in response to protests against the text, Danneels launched a media campaign vilifying Colen and other parents. Colen points to the close relationship between Danneels and Vangheluwe, who was the supervising bishop of the Catholic University of Leuven and the Seminary of Bruges where the text was written and edited.

She writes that, given the revelations about Vangheluwe, “Today this case, that dates from 12 years ago, assumes a new and ominous significance.”

See’s Special Report:

Roots of Sexual Abuse in the Church: Homosexuality, Dissent and Modernism