OXFORD, England (CNS) — The Belgian Catholic bishops’ conference has welcomed judicial condemnation of a 2010 police raid on the cathedral and residence of Cardinal Godfried Danneels of Mechelen-Brussels.
On May 28, Belgium’s Court of Cassation condemned the June 24, 2010, raid, during which documents were seized and the tombs of two cardinals were pried open. The raid occurred during a bishops’ plenary meeting, and the bishops were held all day as police confiscated cell phones, documents and computers.
In its ruling, which is final under Belgian law, the court said the “legally unjustified” raid had been ordered by a judge on the basis of a single witness’ testimony. The court ordered the return of all seized material to the church.
“We are satisfied with this definitive judgment,” said Jesuit Father Tommy Scholtes, spokesman for the Brussels-based bishops’ conference. “But the raid’s illegality was only one aspect of the many problems we still face, and the church must await further developments.”
Father Scholtes told Catholic News Service May 30 that the church’s advisers would decide on further steps in connection with the “illegal action,” but warned the court judgment was unlikely to affect public attitudes toward the church.
Meanwhile, a lawyer representing the church, Fernand Keuleneer, said the ruling confirmed the raid had “irreparably violated the right of those concerned to an equitable process.”
“As we argued from the beginning, the court believes the investigating judge was on a fishing expedition,” Keuleneer said in a May 29 statement.
“By arbitrarily seizing such an improbable number of documents, he deliberately attempted to gather proof about supposed offenses without the slightest indication they had taken place. This was breaking the law.”
Belgium’s Catholic Church has been dogged by allegations of abuse since early 2010, alongside parallel claims against the church in the neighboring Netherlands and Germany.
Keuleneer said the bishops would continue “to cooperate with correctly conducted judiciary instructions” on sexual abuse.
The Le Soir daily reported May 29 that “material seized illegally by police cannot now be used for inquiries into possible cover-up attempts by the church.”
“This is very hard blow for the civil parties hoping to find evidence in it to incriminate the church’s hierarchy,” the newspaper said.
Help keep Catholic media free, support CatholicPhilly.com
You may have noticed “pay walls” greeting you when you visit the websites of newspapers and magazines, both large and small. These mechanisms allow you to read a few articles for free before you’ve got to pay an annual fee if you want to see more.
You won’t find a pay wall on CatholicPhilly.com because we’re more than a news organization. We’re informing, inspiring and forming readers in the Catholic faith every day through the news, features and commentaries that we post on this site and share across social media.
It costs money to provide high-quality coverage of the local Catholic communities we primarily serve, while also distributing national and world news of interest to Catholics, plus the orthodox teachings of the Catholic faith.
Help us in this mission by making a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community.
Make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
or by credit card: