Sunday, January 29, 2012

Belgian police raid every diocese in the country

Belgique : nouvelles perquisitions dans des évêchés wallons |

'via Blog this'

Apologies- late breaking news- only just back online.

Belgium: new searches of Walloon bishoprics
After a series of searches in the Flemish bishoprics on Monday 16 and Tuesday 17 January, it was the turn of the Walloon Dioceses of Tournai and Namur to be raided on Wednesday by the Belgian Federal Police, under the leadership of the Brussels Investigating Magistrate, Wim De Troy.

Each time the police took away the "personal files" of priests whose names appear in about 200 testimonies from victims and 87 legal complaints in the possession of Judge De Troy.

"We are at an important phase of Operation Chalice," the name given to the investigation which has been undermining the Belgian Church since the spring of 2010, said one of the magistrates and spokesman for the federal prosecution service, Lieve Pellens . "We are looking for fundamental material," she added.

Judge De Troy is not trying to find evidence against pedophile priests, a task which is the responsibility of local prosecutors, but to see whether their superiors showed themselves "culpable" in failing to act or protecting abusers when they were informed of these facts.

The former bishop of Bruges, Monsignor Roger Vangheluwe, who resigned in April 2010 after admitting sexual abuse of a nephew, who was a minor, in the 1980s, was especially cited by de Troy, according to the Flemish newspaper De Standaard . The former bishop, who has fled abroad to an undisclosed location, cannot be prosecuted for acts he himself has committed, as he is now protected by the statute of limitation.

But according to De Standaard, he has until recently protected the priests of his diocese, even to the extent of sending small sums of money to an alleged victim and threatening "consequences" if she spoke.

Desperate to make history with the investigation
The Belgian Church hoped to have turned the corner last week by launching a public information campaign, setting up a network for victims and with the statement that all cases of sexual abuse are to be systematically sent to the court authorities. Last December, it had already agreed to offer compensation of between 2500 and 25000 euro to victims of sexual crimes prescribed by law.

"We have no objection at all to when justice does its job as long as judicial norms are met. This time, the method of search is more normal and investigators have behaved in a more correct manner", confided Ferdinand Keuleneer , counsel for the Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels to La Croix.

Recalling that the Church authorities have pledged to cooperate fully with the ongoing criminal investigation, he was surprised, however, by the need for a spectacular new operation and placed the matter on public record when he said "the Church of Belgium would certainly forwarded these records to the court if the latter had asked him."

"The Church authorities have recognized clearly that the structures of the past were neither appropriate nor effective in the fight against pedophilia, but it is another thing to want to demonstrate that there was failure to assist persons in danger. Wim De Troy seems to be desperate to make history with the investigation", he said in criticism to La Libre Belgique .