Yesterday, Belgian police raided several Catholic locations, seizing bishops and records. The Catholic Church is livid.
The raid was ordered as part of a pedophile investigation. Records seized included those of Cardinal Godfried Danneels. The cardinal had been the head of the Belgium bishops for the last 20 years. There are allegations he has protected pedophilic priests for much of that time.
The Catholic Church has three basic arguments about the raid. The most frequent is the one that gives me pause — that Belgium had no right as the properties were sacrosanct/diplomatically protected. The implication of the argument is that if it’s owned by the Catholic Church it is part of the Vatican State. In addition there are the claims that it’s a fishing expedition done without basis, and the claims that there was excessive violence and abuse done during the raids.
The church is demanding all records returned, all arrestees released, and an apology be given.
I don’t know Belgium law so won’t comment on “rights” and “law”. Instead I’ll comment on a practicality. I suspect this little engagement is going to have significant repercussions regardless of what’s found. If it turns out Danneels’s records contain information about priests who were protected, the Catholic Church will take yet another hit in credibility. Given their track record on this issue, that’s what I expect to happen. However, it may turn to nothing, and in that case a lot of pursuits in the future will be stymied — and the Catholic church will gain credibility in the argument of whether they’re taking care of the problem.