Belgium church panel on sex abuse shuts after raidBRUSSELS (AP) — A panel appointed by the Catholic church to investigate clerical sex abuse in Belgium is shutting down after police seized all its files during a raid last week, the group’s chairman said Monday.
BRUSSELS (AP) — A panel appointed by the Catholic church to investigate clerical sex abuse in Belgium is shutting down after police seized all its files during a raid last week, the group’s chairman said Monday.
Peter Adriaenssens, a child psychiatrist who chaired the panel, said authorities betrayed the trust of nearly 500 victims who had made complaints over the past two months to the church panel and blamed state prosecutors for pursuing victims too traumatized to speak to police.
“We were bait,” he said.
The panel was shutting because it had no files to work from, Adriaenssens said. On June 24, police raided its offices, seized documents and computers from the Belgian archbishop’s office and opened a prelate’s crypt in a cathedral.
“It is now up to (Belgian) bishops to care for victims and follow-up their complaints,” the panel said in a statement.
On Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI denounced the raids as “deplorable” — his first public comment on the deepening diplomatic rift between Belgium and the Vatican over the police raids.
Adriaenssens linked the raids to a state investigation into a possible cover-up of abuse by the Catholic Church.
The Belgian church was rocked by the April 24 resignation of its longest-serving bishop, Roger Vangheluwe, who stepped down after admitting sexually abusing a young boy during when former Archbishop Godfried Danneels was in charge.
The revelation came as hundreds of cases of abuse were being reported across Europe, Latin America and elsewhere, exposing cover-ups by bishops and evidence of long-standing Vatican inaction to stop it.
Danneels resigned in January after victims said he had not responded to their complaints.
The Catholic panel had been in existence for over a decade, but for most of that time, it dealt with only 30 complaints and took no discernible action on them.
Since Adriaenssens took over eight weeks ago, hundreds of men had come forward and the panel received nearly 500 complaints. The group was due to make a report to the Belgian Church in October, but Adriaenssens said prosecutors launched the raid after he told them the flood of alleged victims had slowed.
The panel was also to question 16 people who had previously complained to Danneels about sexual abuse by priests.