The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Friday, June 25, 2010
Vatican blasts Belgian police raid; Sex abuse victims blast Vatican
Statement by Joelle Casteix of Newport Beach California, Western Regional Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (949 322 7434 cell, [email protected])
Vatican officials who criticize the Belgian police raid of the Brussels church hierarchy should be ashamed of themselves. Cardinal Bertone should especially be ashamed of himself. Two weeks ago, Bertone’s boss claimed church officials will “do everything possible” to stop future child sexual violations. Today, Bertone is prematurely and irresponsibly lashing out at what may prove to be an extremely effective way of doing that.
While Roman church officials talk about stopping abuse, Belgian police officials take action to stop abuse. Reasonable observers know which group deserves condemnation.
It’s the height of hypocrisy that Bertone expresses more outrage about police looking inside two burial vaults than he’s ever really expressed about his colleagues who hide and protect predator priests. Hundreds of thousands of innocent girls and boys are sexually violated by clerics and Bertone blames homosexuality. Two tombs are inspected and Bertone is “indignant” about the so-called “violations.”
Belgian church officials who are taking potshots at law enforcement should also be ashamed of themselves. No police officer tells a prelate how to give the Easter homily. Similarly, no Catholic bishop should try to tell police how to conduct a raid to get evidence about child sex crimes and cover ups.
These are the same Vatican officials whose official Irish representative refused to cooperate with two governmental inquiries into decades of corruption.
These are the same Vatican officials that are fighting tooth and nail to block efforts by several US clergy sex abuse victims to gain access to secret church records about crimes and cover ups.
These are the same Vatican officials who have virtually never been forthcoming about clergy sex crimes or cover ups.
These are the same Vatican officials who have virtually never cooperated with any outside drive to learn about or prevent devastating child sexual abuse.
And now they have the audacity to criticize police for doing their jobs.
We know of only one other such police raid of a church headquarters, which took place in Toledo Ohio in the US several years ago. Evidence found was later used in a criminal trial at which a Catholic priest was convicted of brutally murdering a nun. (No Vatican official expressed indignation about the nun’s murder, or the efforts of Toledo diocesan staff to protect the murderer.)
That murderous priest, it should be noted, is in prison but has yet to be defrocked by the same Vatican officials who are now expressing such “indignation” that police looked inside two tombs where two deceased bishops are buried.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 22 years and have more than 9,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home, [email protected]), Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747, [email protected]), Peter Isely (414-429-7259, [email protected]), Barbara Dorris (314-862-7688 home, 314-503-0003 cell, [email protected])
Vatican anger over Belgium raids
The Vatican has said it is indignant and astonished at police searches of the graves of two cardinals during Belgian investigations over child sex abuse.
Police on Thursday raided the headquarters of Belgium's Roman Catholic church, several buildings of the Mechelen-Brussels archdiocese and the offices of a church commission investigating abuse claims.
The search included the crypt in Mechelen cathedral, with investigators making holes in the tombs of two former Belgian primates and sending down cameras in search of hidden documents, without success, according to a church spokesman.
In a statement on Friday, the Vatican voiced "astonishment over how the searches were carried out yesterday by Belgian judicial authorities and its indignation over the violation of the graves of the Cardinals Jozef-Ernest Van Roey and Leon-Joseph Suenens".
Prosecutors in Brussels said that the action, involving dozens of officers and investigators, followed a string of accusations "denouncing abuse of minors committed by a certain number of church figures".
Hundreds of submissions to a special commission set up with the backing of the church in eastern Louvain to examine complaints received of past child abuse were taken away by officers on Thursday.
Police returned to the archdiocese with two more lorries early evening to cart off further material for forensics to comb through seeking hard evidence.
Tarcisio Bertone, from the Vatican secretariat of state, expressed regret on Friday over the "violation of confidentiality of precisely those victims for whom the raids were carried out".
The Vatican statement said it "firmly condemns any sinful and criminal act of minor abuse by members of the church".
Police also seized computer files on Thursday at the home of Godfried Danneels, the former archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels.
A spokesman for Danneels, who led the country's Catholic church for two decades until the turn of the year, said police confiscated a computer from his home before he was escorted to the archdiocese's palace.
Armed police with dogs sealed off the residence, just north of Brussels, "in order to establish if these accusations are backed up or not,"Jean-Marc Meilleur, a spokesman for Brussels prosecutors, said.
The Roman Catholic church in Belgium has endured some of the worst of the worldwide paedophilia scandal to beset the Vatican.
In April, its longest-serving bishop, Roger Vangheluwe, 73, resigned from his Bruges post after admitting sexually abusing a boy for years.
According to Dirk Deville, a retired priest, hundreds of cases of sexual abuse had been signalled to Danneels going back to the 1990s, but Danneels himself recently denied being involved in any cover-up.
"I cannot recall such a conversation and it would astonish me if I had paid no attention to such a message or had forgotten it," Danneels, a former Belgian primate, insisted.
A victim of a paedophile priest in Wallonia has also accused Andre-Joseph Leonard, Danneels' successor as leader of Belgium's Catholics, of covering up an abuser and keeping him for five years at his post.
Eric De Beukelaer, Leonard's spokesman, recently said: "We did as much as we could at the time, removing the priest involved from all of the pastoral functions that would have put him in contact with children."
In a bid to restore confidence within an increasingly sceptical flock, Belgium's bishops came together in May to publicly beg forgiveness from victims both for the actions of paedophile priests and for the church's "silence" down the years.
Paedophile priest scandals and allegations of high-level cover-ups have surged again since last year across Europe, the US and Brazil.
Earlier this month, Pope Benedict XVI, who has met with abuse victims in Australia, the US and Malta, begged for forgiveness over the matter.
"We ... insistently beg forgiveness from God and from the persons involved, while promising to do everything possible to ensure that such abuse will never occur again," he said.
The pope himself has faced allegations that, as archbishop of Munich and later as the Vatican's chief morals enforcer, he helped to protect predator priests.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests