Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Real Impact of the Belgium Raids

The Real Impact of the Belgium Raids
Voices from the Desert
Once again, Goliath gets stoned by little David. Belgium ranks thirty-seventh in size out of the fifty-two countries in Europe. Yet it will go down in history as being the only country in the world with the determination to take on the Catholic Church. The Belgium Police have done what the rest of the world should have been doing for years: they have treated the Church just like any other entity involved in a criminal investigation. For that, the global community of clergy abuse survivors owes them a big “Thank You!” The Belgium Police Dept. also deserves applause from all civic minded people who believe no individual or organization is above the law.

What are the repercussions of this dramatic event? There are several. The first, the Belgium Police have set a precedent. The world has witnessed in print, on television, and on the Internet members of the church hierarchy being treated like the alleged criminals they are for aiding and abetting known felons who have raped, sodomized and molested children. No one will be able to remove those images from the minds of those who either watched or read about this historic event. This is a huge step forward and it has struck fear into the hearts of bishops and cardinals around the world who are hiding known sexual offenders.

The truth of this matter is the hierarchy doesn’t know where or when this will happen again. Now, anywhere in the world, a police department emboldened by the actions of the Belgium Police may decide that church walls no longer impede criminal investigations. In 2002 a very prophetic priest, Rev. Ted Keating, then director of the Conference of the Major Superiors of Men, (The organization of all priestly orders not diocesan) wrote this in their monthly newsletter.

The days of the pass or station house adjustment for Father or Brother by the Irish cop or prosecutor are over. Either we will learn to become more comfortable in the gaze of the rude and scoffing multitude (depending on our attitude) or we will be dragged kicking and screaming into a new future for religion and religious life (Emphasis mine)

Eight years later, that observation has come home to roost in Belgium; the precedent of giving priests and bishops a free pass had a very public ending. The church has finally been dragged kicking and screaming into the twenty-first century.

The world has seen bishops and cardinals sequestered for nine hours in an ongoing criminal investigation and just like they would in any other alleged criminal organization Church computers and files have been confiscated in full public view with no public outcry. The Belgium Police were careful to follow the letter of the law in regard to exercising their legitimately issued search warrants; yet the pope called their actions deplorable.

This brings us to the second aspect of the fallout from this raid. The pope is once again documented as speaking out of both sides of his mouth. Consider these quotes from Pope Benedict XVI over the past year:

In 2009: At the Catholic World Youth Day in Australia Benedict said, “I ask all of you to support and assist your bishops, and to work together with them in combating this evil. Victims should receive compassion and care, and those responsible for these evils must be brought to justice.”

In 2010: The Holy Father observed that the “sexual abuse of children and young people is not only a heinous crime, but also a grave sin which offends God.”

Benedict out of one side of his mouth tells us that all those who are responsible for these evils must be brought to justice and then when an attempt to do that very thing is made, he calls it deplorable! How things can change in one short year! Benedict called sexual abuse a heinous crime and a couple of months later when the Belgium Police tried to solve some of these heinous crimes, the pope is outraged. One has to wonder where he was being more honest; calling the sexual abuse a heinous crime or calling the actions of the Belgium Police deplorable. Benedict XVI is patently giving lip service to the suffering of the victims of clergy abuse and throwing his full weight behind those that have covered it up.

Herman’s Hermits once sang a song called “Kind of a Hush.” The words have been changed to reflect the events precipitated by the raid in Belgium.

There’s a kind of a hum all over the world, tonight

All over the church you can hear the sounds of shredders at work.

Closer now and you will hear what I mean.

It isn’t a dream.

The only sound that you will hear

Is music to your bishop’s ear!

Shredding files represents the final fallout from the historic event that took place at the “Palace of the Archbishop of Mechelen-Brussels.” The hierarchy of the Catholic Church knows the old ways have ended. The evidence hidden in priest personnel files under the guise of priest-confessor (bishop) relationship is no longer sacrosanct. Thanks to the Belgium Justice System it will henceforth be considered evidence in a criminal investigation. History tells us that the hierarchy will do whatever it takes to keep incriminating evidence out of the hands of the proper civil authorities seeking information in legitimate criminal investigations. Maybe the future will show us that they’ve learned the white collar isn’t a “Get out of Jail Card!” anymore.

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