Blogging from the Highlands of Scotland
'From fanaticism to barbarism is only one step' - Diderot

Monday 28 June 2010

Belgian authorities raid meeting of Catholic Bishops

The Vatican has made an official complaint about a raid carried out last Thursday by Belgian police on a meeting of Catholic Bishops there in connection with allegations of paedophilia by priests.

According to the Brussels prosecutor the raid followed a string of accusations "denouncing abuse of minors committed by a certain number of Church figures". Justice Minister Stefaan De Clerck [...] defended the raid in television interviews on Sunday, describing the Vatican's reaction as "a bit excessive" and based on false information, adding: "We must not turn this into a diplomatic incident. The bishops were treated completely normally... and it is false to say that they received no food or drink".

According to the linked report, police confiscated phones, computers and the archdiocese's accounting system in a search for documents including any correspondence between alleged victims and the Catholic authorities. It is also reported that Italy's Corriere della Sera said Belgian authorities acted out of frustration with the Church, which under a 1990s agreement was supposed to refer abuse cases to prosecutors to pursue. (my emphasis - Ed).

In a letter written by the Pontiff, Pope Benedict XVI, and released by the Vatican, he wrote, inter alia:

"I have myself repeated numerous times that these serious facts must be dealt with by civil law and by canon law, in reciprocal respect of the specificity and autonomy of each."

With the deepest and most sincere respect to Il Papa and with no intention to offend any of the followers of the Roman Catholic religion, I am obliged to state plainly that I find this statement deplorable, shocking and completely unacceptable. I would imagine that within the territory of Belgium, just as we do in the United Kingdom, that the supreme law is considered to be that of Belgium and that any implication that 'Canon Law' has an autonomous, equal status with national law is roundly, and rightly, rejected. It is high time that the Catholic Church realised that it is no longer going to be allowed to get away with its traditional tactics of denial and when that no longer works, delaying tactics. It has to accept that civil law in the countries where it operates is supreme and show that it is complying fully and without reservation. Then, perhaps unfortunate and embarrassing, but necessary, incidents such as the raid in Belgium last Thursday will no longer be required.

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