Put your hands out where I can see them

Belgian authorities heightened pressure on the Roman Catholic Church in a sex-abuse scandal on Thursday, raiding the Belgian church headquarters, the home of a former archbishop and the offices of a commission established by the church to handle abuse complaints.

Police arrived at the church headquarters, the palace of the archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels, on Thursday morning while the monthly bishops meeting was in progress, a church spokesman said, questioning all of those present, from bishops down to staff members such as cooks and drivers.

Now that’s more like it. That sounds as if someone actually realizes that raping children is a crime, and not a little foible that can be gently discouraged by one’s colleagues without anyone’s hair having to get mussed.

The authorities’ decision to search church property, question bishops and seize documents and other potential evidence represented a major departure in such investigations and a sign that in criminal matters the church will not be afforded special treatment here. This sort of activity “Is extremely rare, very rare, especially in the house of a cardinal,” said Andrea Tornielli, a Vatican expert at the Italian daily Il Giornale. “It’s enormous.”

…Barbara Dorris, outreach director for the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said in a statement that the raid was “precisely what’s needed, not just in Belgium but in other church offices across the globe.”

“Law enforcement officials must stop giving the Catholic hierarchy a ‘free pass’ when it comes to clergy sex crimes and cover-ups,” Ms. Dorris said. “Police and prosecutors need to step up, and promptly and thoroughly investigate allegations against predator priests and corrupt bishops, and use their full powers to gain access to and control over church records that likely document the crimes and cover-ups.”

No more special treatment. That’s all. Not an unreasonable expectation.

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