Belgium sets the Vatican straight

Belgium isn’t having it. Very good.

Belgium and the Vatican are on a collision course after the Holy See accused the Belgian police of using communist tactics in their paedophilia raids on Catholic bishops last week…

The Belgian Foreign Minister, Steven Vanackere, underlined the Belgian judiciary’s independence from the Church and its freedom to investigate.

“It’s good to [keep in mind] very important principles of the state of law. [There are] very elementary principles of having a separation of powers and accepting that the judiciary has to do its work,” Mr Vanackere told RNW. “That’s crucial for every democratic state.”

And that’s all there is to it. The Belgian government is the right body to investigate crimes by priests; the church is not. The church has a vested interest, and we already know what that interest is: concealment, protection of its own reputation for holiness and all-over goodness, impunity.

That panel set up by the church doesn’t see things that way. But it’s out of luck.

Belgium insisted Monday in a dispute with the Vatican over credibility that Belgian law enforcement authorities — not the potentially biased Catholic Church — will investigate sexual abuse cases involving clergy.

A panel created by Belgian bishops 12 years ago to look into abuse cases disbanded on Monday, saying last week’s seizure of its 500 case files rendered its existence pointless. Its chief, Peter Adriaenssens, accused authorities of betraying the trust of hundreds of victims and using his group to tap into information and testimony from abuse victims.

The chief of a church-appointed panel accused the Belgian government of using the testimony of victims. What did Mr Adriaenssens plan to do with the testimony then? Put it in a vault? Seal it in amber? Lose it?

Belgium’s government doesn’t appear to be concerned about having pushed the panel to the sidelines, despite an outburst from the Vatican that Thursday’s police raid was an unprecedented intrusion into church affairs.

“I respect Peter Adriaenssens, but his commission was created by the Church,” Glenn Audenaert, head of Belgium’s judiciary police, said after last week’s police raids. “That commission cannot start a prosecution. Only the justice department can.”

That’s the way to tell them.

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