Raid on Belgian Church Declared Illegal

Archbishop to Announce New Abuse Prevention Plan

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BRUSSELS, Belgium, SEPT. 10, 2010 (Zenit.org).- The appeals court in Brussels ruled that a raid on the archbishopric was illegal, and the documents seized must be returned.



The Belgian police raided the headquarters of the Archdiocese of Malines-Brussels, where the bishops of Belgium were meeting for their monthly meeting on June 24. The authorities detained the bishops at the headquarters for nine hours as they searched the offices and the Cathedral of Mechelen.

At that time they drilled holes in two graves located in the crypt of the cathedral, and then sent cameras down in search of hidden documents.

In addition to the headquarters of the archbishopric of Brussels, the authorities seized some 500 confidential files In Leuven, Belgium, from the office of Peter Adriaensses, president of the commission for the treatment of sexual abuses. The home of former archbishop of Brussels, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, was also searched.

On Thursday, the Belgian court ruled that these measures were "disproportionate," and that the documents collected could not be considered as valid evidence in any trial.

The judge ordered that the material be returned to the owners without passing under the eyes of prosecutors.

A communiqué from the archdiocese reported that Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard "hopes that all the attention will finally be concentrated on the victims of the sexual abuses in the context of a pastoral relationship."
 
The prelate affirmed that he is not at all "opposed to a judicial investigation carried out correctly."

He noted that he "is satisfied by the fact that this event was finally clarified," and "in the interest of all, that the fundamental rules of law are respected."
 
Today, Adriaensses released a report from the commission, which compiled the testimonies of over 500 victims abused by clergy, most of the cases taking place in the 1960s and 1970s.

Archbishop Léonard has said that he will respond to these cases on Monday with a new initiative meant to help the victims and prevent future abuse.