March 1, 2017

June 27, 2010

Pope: Belgian sex abuse raids deplorable

The pope on Sunday called the raids carried out by Belgian police investigating priestly sex abuse “deplorable” and asserted the right of the Catholic Church to investigate abuse alongside civil law enforcement authorities.

Pope Benedict XVI issued a message Sunday to the head of the Belgian bishops’ conference, Monsignor Andre-Joseph Leonard, expressing his solidarity with all Belgian bishops “in this sad moment.”

The June 24 raids targeted the home and office of a retired archbishop and also the graves of two prelates. The Vatican has slowly ratcheted up its criticism of the searches, with the Vatican No. 2 on Saturday complaining they were unprecedented even under communism.

For the most part I’m a big fan of Pope Benedict - his support (as Cardinal Ratzinger) of the orthodox Anglican movement, and the steps he took to clean house at American RC seminaries as a response to the priest-abuse scandal were especially welcome.

However, recently there has been a string of comments and reactions from the Vatican that indicate its leadership - and not confined to the pope, by any means - seems not to understand that while the God for whose kingdom they labor exists outside the grasp of earthly authorities, the evil perpetrated by their clerics does not. In Europe, in America, and wherever its priests have abused children, a lot less assertion of the notion of “parallel authority” and a lot more cooperation with civil authorities would almost certainly bring about better resolutions to these crises.

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What information did the authorities garner from the two deceased archbishops?  I don’t imagine either had much to say.  There is a difference between contemporaneous investigations and a police raid, which is what this was.  No man of integrity tolerates a cover-up; no man of integrity tolerates an attack by bullies and thugs with guns and badges, which is exactly what happened in Belgium.

[1] Posted by Father Bob on 6-27-2010 at 01:03 PM · [top]

I don’t know enough to have an opinion.  The AP news report says that the nine active Belgian bishops were held incommunicado for nine hours as their monthly meeting began.  In American terms this sounds extreme.  Belgian procedures and requirements may be different.

[2] Posted by Katherine on 6-27-2010 at 01:09 PM · [top]

Well, there’s a bit more to it than just “Police raid for evidence.”

Firstly, there’s no indication that there is any evidence being hidden or kept from the cops or the justice system.

Secondly, the police raided Cardinal Danneels’ residence - that’s the “retired archbishop” above, and he’s always co-operated with the courts.

Thirdly, they also raided - amongst other places - the office handling the Belgian hierarchy’s response to clergy sex-abuse allegations.  I’m not up on the law, but I’ll leave it to you lawyers on here if that’s legal or not.  An independent commission set up by the hierarchy as an impartial body to handle allegations seems to me more likely to be (1) asked for co-operation rather than have the doors kicked in (2) more likely to be working with the prosecution service than a cover-up.

Fourthly, anyone tell me that this kind of activity is any use at all other than a publicity stunt to show how seriously the Belgian authorities are taking things?

“(T)he tombs of Cardinals Jozef-Ernest Van Roey and Léon-Joseph Suenens, deceased archbishops of Malines-Brussels, were violated” as, reportedly acting on a tip, the authorities drilled small holes in the stones, inserting cameras to check for documents.

Really, people, do any of you seriously think that even we Evil Romanists would be so stupid as to hide incriminating documents in gravestones?  This is something out of a Dan Brown novel!

Fifthly and finally, Belgium has had atrocious child abuse scandals in the past, and they were not church-related.  The hideous case of the little girls kidnapped and left die of starvation is still raw in the memory of the Belgians; I’m sure you all heard of the Dutroux case:

So to wind it up, I’m not surprised the Pope was angry about the desecration of graves.  I think that the police - for whatever reason - are acting like this more as a sign to the public that you bet, we’re taking this stuff seriously.  I don’t think the Belgian hierarchy are any worse - though I don’t know if they’re any better - than the rest of the bishops globally.  Emphatically, I do think that the Church is working to clean things up and these kind of vote-grabbing exercises don’t help the cause of justice.

When all the furore dies down, I am willing to be that no evidence, either of concealment or new evidence, will be found other than what has already been passed over to the authorities.  From “Whispers in the Loggia”, a report on the Vatican’s response and what Benedict said in his letter (emphasis mine):

“In this sad moment, I wish to express my particular closeness and solidarity to you, dear brother in the episcopate, and to all the bishops of the church in Belgium, for the surprising and deplorable means with which the searches were conducted in the Cathedral of Mechelen and at the venue where the Belgian episcopate was meeting in a plenary session that, among other things, sought to address aspects linked to the abuse of minors on the part of members of the clergy. Many times I myself have underscored that these grave facts must be treated by the civil authorities and canonical ones, each with respect of their reciprocal specificity and autonomy.<bold> In that sense, I hope that justice might run its course, guaranteeing the fundamental rights of persons and institutions, respecting the victims, recognizing without prejudice how pledged you are to collaborate with it and in its refusal of everything that might obscure the noble tasks assigned to it.</bold>

In the assurance that I accompany with daily prayer the path of this Church, I willingly send my affectionate Apostolic Blessing.

From the Vatican, 27 June 2010.


[3] Posted by Martha on 6-27-2010 at 01:14 PM · [top]

Another view of that police raid on the independent commission (link once again courtesy of Whispers in the Loggia):
“The commission of inquiry is well-respected and is led by Peter Adriaenssens, one of Belgium’s top child abuse experts, whose office has received hundreds of complaints this year and who has threatened to resign should his work be impeded by the church hierarchy. He emerged as a national figure following the notorious Marc Dutroux paedophilia and murder case in 1996 and runs one of the country’s most respected child abuse centres.

He voiced outrage and shock at the police actions, saying he had been given no warning, and would now struggle to deliver a report on clerical sexual abuse he was preparing for October. Adriaenssens was in Amsterdam in the Netherlands on Wednesday when his offices were raided. He said that all files in his investigation, concerning 475 cases, had been taken away by the police.

“All day we’ve been getting mails and calls from victims in panic,” he said. “They agreed that we do a report, but they did not want others to see the material … No one asked us a single question. We have no idea why this happened now.”

Adriaenssens suggested that a wave of “paranoia” had developed around the flood of allegations coming to light in recent months in Belgium. “There were rumours that the commission was having secret talks with the bishops. Perhaps the investigating magistrate let himself be led by this paranoia.

...Police sources told the Flemish newspaper De Standaard that the raids were carried out because of suspicions that church leaders were failing to hand over all the necessary materials to the commission of inquiry. That was not confirmed by Adriaenssens.”

Sorry to bang on about this, but it’s an easy and conventional way for the media to report this as “Pope covers up child abuse”, the same way that the division within the Anglican Communnion is easily covered as “Homophobes and misogynists split over gay rights and women bishops” when there’s slightly more to it than that.

[4] Posted by Martha on 6-27-2010 at 01:31 PM · [top]

Greg- I don’t think the “civil” authorities really care that much about abused children. They just hate Jesus and His Church and His Vicar and see this as their grand opportunity to smear, embarrass, and persecute.

[5] Posted by via orthodoxy on 6-27-2010 at 01:46 PM · [top]

In reading the Guardian article it is apparant that there was no evidence of misconduct on the part of the independent commission or of the secreting away of damning evidence.  The article refers to rumors and suspicions and gives not one instance of verifiable testimony being used in support of any warrant and accompanying action. 

It is distressing too to see the press once again spinning this as Pope/Church/Bishops/Clergy/entire population of Catholics objecting to and thwarting the investigations of sexual abuse.

[6] Posted by Paula Loughlin on 6-27-2010 at 02:00 PM · [top]

I do deplore the way the raids were conducted especially the violation of the tombs.  But I have no doubt that the investigation whether by the police or the commission will come up with plenty of evidence of abuse.

This link to an article in the Brussels Journal gives a very frank and shocking look at the repugnant and indefensible conduct of Daneels and Vangheluwe.
Adult content be warned.

Keep in mind the secular media thought Daneels should be the one to replace Pope John Paul II.

[7] Posted by Paula Loughlin on 6-27-2010 at 02:16 PM · [top]

I don’t know the whole story, and probably no one else in the general public does either.  But these men are vey likely not innocent as newborn babes. As for the way in which the raid was conducted, I don’t know the full story, but maybe the police were trying to avoid giving the bishops another chance at still more cover-up - or even escape, as in the case of Cardinal Law who fled Boston for Rome 10 minutes ahead of the troopers. I am thoroughly sick and disgusted with the abuse scandal - with the priests’ actions but even more so with the cover-up. I agree that the media hate Christianity, but in this case they were given a lot of fuel for their fire by so-called Christians. As for whether “Romanists” are stupid, I don’t think the bishops are necessarily stupid - just insufferably arrogant and lacking in all respect for the laity. Many of the bishops - here and abroad - have been guilty of conduct that is absolutely indefensible. And I have news for the bishops, and for the Pope - if you commit a crime, you’re subject to civil authority. I don’t see anything in the law - here, at any rate - that says that if you’re a bishop you have a right to have church authorities investigating with the civil police. Nothing says church authorities can’t investigate on their own, but where does the idea come from that because they’re bishops, these men have more rights than other people? Hogwash. As Baretta used to say on TV , “If you can’t do the time, don’t do the crime.” I don’t care who you are. In any case, I really believe that these guys are going to get a lot better deal from civil authorities than they are from the ultimate Judge. Remmeber what He said about harming His little ones. Perhaps they’d be well off being put in jail; there they might have time to reflect and repent, if the other prisoners let them live.

[8] Posted by Nellie on 6-27-2010 at 04:24 PM · [top]

Some further comments: I think the worst part of all this is the Pope’s comments. He talks of “reciprocal specificity and autonomy” of civil and canon law. Taht’s outrageous. We’re not talking about a conscience clause type situation here - like a Catholic hospital refusing to perorm abortions or Catholic adoption agency refusing to let gay couples adopt. We’re talking bout the most heinous criminal behavior. Andthe Pope expresses his “closeness and solidarity” with the Belgian clergy and Archbishop who heads the conference of Bishops. How nice! How about some solidrity with the victims? The Pope has certainly calrified things here. It’s now perfectly clear that from the top on down, the Church is more concerned with protecting the perpetrators than it is with both protection and justice for the visctims. My husband and I have been waiting…and waiting… and waiting for the Pope to clean house. He has done nothing beyond talk and studying of the problem. He has allowed Cardial Law to remain in a position of honor in Rome - safe from the nasty civil authorities in America. The Catholic Church (meaning the institution, obviously, not the Body of Christ)is corrupt from the top down. That being the case, it doesn’t look like there’s much hope of reform. At least among us Anglicans, there’s hope. There’ something to be said for a central authority like the Pope, but on the other hand, it’s a lot easier for us to reform because the laity, too, have some power to change things.

[9] Posted by Nellie on 6-27-2010 at 05:11 PM · [top]

Nellie,  Cardinal Law did not flee.  As to the rest of your comment you obviously do not understand what is meant by “reciprocal specifity” as the same phrase can be applied to civil and criminal law.  I hope one of lawyers here will explain it better but to suffice it to say that an action brought under civil law does not mean action under criminal law is nullified.  The same is true of canon law and civil and/or criminal law.  Bringing somebody up on charges under canon law does not still the hand of the civil authorities.  But both bodies, clerical and civil would have their own means and methods of investigation and both would have their own rules of procedure. 

And I am sorry the Pope has disappointed you.  I guess yo missed all the sorrow and anger expressed by him about the abuse and his concern for the victims.
As for there being hope amongst the Anglicans.  Who can deny it? To say otherwise would be to say God’s grace had left all of Anglicanism.  Which I do not believe.

However, I am Catholic but do not but my hope in the frail sinners who make up the office of the Church.  I put my hope in Christ and in His promises.  It is this that gives me the confidence to say the gates of hell will not prevail.

[10] Posted by Paula Loughlin on 6-27-2010 at 05:41 PM · [top]

Nellie - and any others - the Pope is not saying that the investigation should be left in the hands of the Church.

All bodies have disciplinary procedures.  When a doctor is accused of malpractice, the Medical Council investigates.  The Law Society decides if a solictor should be struck off the rolls.  Same principle here; when a priest is accused of child abuse, apart from the civil and criminal law, there is the internal investigation and disciplinary action of the church.

Or do any of you think that, for instance, a meeting of a teachers’ union which was, amongst other matters, drawing up a code of conduct for child protection, would be crashed by the police in the same way?

There is the assumption here that the bishops are deliberately covering up cases that they know about and concealing evidence.  We don’t know that.  Perpetrators should be punished, we all agree.

But if you take what the Commissioner says, some of the victims didn’t go to the police or the courts because they wanted privacy.  Now, their case files have been seized by the police and who knows what is going on?

And once again, I ask you: is a tip-off that evidence has been hidden in the tombs any kind of credible sounding thing?

There was a case in Jersey back in 2008 where there were allegations of child abuse at a children’s care home (not religious or Catholic associated).  At the height of the news coverage, there were allegations of secret rooms, torture chambers, and bones being found which were alleged to be those of murdered children.  Well, a lot of that was hysteria.  If I recall correctly, after digging up cellars and the like, these bones turned out to be animal bones.

Once again, a lot of hysteria gets whipped up.  If the police have genuine reasons to think that there is deliberate lack of co-operation, that’s one thing.  But it sounds like the local magistrate was feeling the heat over the public perception that things were moving too slowly, so he instigated a flashy public operation to cover his ass.

If I’m wrong, then well and good.  But once again, I have to say: drilling holes in tombstones for secret documents?  Don’t think that’s going to get anything useful.

[11] Posted by Martha on 6-27-2010 at 05:41 PM · [top]

And just so you know “Romanist” is kind of the “N” word to many Catholics.

[12] Posted by Paula Loughlin on 6-27-2010 at 05:42 PM · [top]

Paula, I deliberately used quotes around Romanist, a word I lifted directly from Martha’s comment, whom I’m guessing is a Catholic. In any case, she’s certainly sympathetic to the Catholics. I have read that Cardinal Law did indeed flee. And you surely are not denying the fact - and it is fact - that he is now at the Pope’s own church in Rome, St. John Lateran, and that he took part in the funeral services for John Paul, in fact saying one of the week’s daily funeral Masses. That sure as hell looks like honor to me. You may believe what you wish. As for being a Catholic, that’s your choice. I’m not questioning your right to be whatever you like. I suggest you read the Pope’s actual statement, and try the N.Y. Times article. I don’t give a rat’s ass if the Pope expresses sorrow and anger. Talk is cheap. Some real action would be nice. It’s not like the whole scandal is new. This has been going on for a very long time, and neither Benedict’s predecessor nor Benedict has shown much action. Any action the Church has taken has been taken as a result of tremendous pressure from the victims and from civil authorites. They did nothing they weeren’t forced to do. The only action they have taken on their own is to protect the bureaucracy. The old saying applies, “Don’t tell me; show me.”

[13] Posted by Nellie on 6-27-2010 at 07:04 PM · [top]

First of all, a correction - Law is now archpriest at the basilica of St. Mary Major - one of 4 churches in Rome under direct Vatican jurisdiction, not St. John Lateran. Martha, how exactly do you know whether the tip-off about evidence in the tombs is credible? Are you a criminal investigator? What nonsense! And gee, isn’t it far-fetched tohink that bishops might be covering up abuse! Where would anyone get that ridiculous idea? Could it be because of the hundreds of thousands of known cases where it has happened - all over the world? I wonder. I’m not defending or criticising the police in Brussels, because I don’t know what they knew that led them to do what they did. My point is that there has been plenty of covering up, that the Church is not the innocent victim, and that the media, while only too happy to uncover dirt on the Church, were spoon fed the dirt by the Churchin this case. If you wish to remain Cathholic in spite of the scandal, that’s your prerogative and no one has a right to argue with you about that; but at least be realistic about the Church. The shepherds have failed the flock miserably. They will have a lot to answer for. I believe the bishops who covered up the abuse are even more guilty then the abusers. They harmed not only the victims of the abuse, but they did an injustice to the abusers by enablking them to continue in their sin with the cooperation of the Church. No one benefited from this but the bureaucracy that the Church has become over the millennia. I too believe that in the end the gates of hell will not prevail against the church - but that church may not be the Roman Catholic Church in its institutonal form.
Incidentally, here’s a new flash for those who don’t already know this - I was born and raised a Catholic, attended Catholics schools through college, and taught in Catholic schools. My husband was also educated in Catholic schools through college. When I criticise the Church I’m not doing so in ignorance or from anti-Catholic prejudice. (I’m still Catholic - Anglo-Catholic.)

[14] Posted by Nellie on 6-27-2010 at 07:40 PM · [top]

Whoa, Nellie!

[15] Posted by TACit on 6-27-2010 at 07:45 PM · [top]

Belgium has a good police force and an independent judiciary.  It is a modern civilised country and very much in the spotlight as it is the home of many of the European Community institutions and of NATO.  As others have mentioned the Belgians are particularly sensitive to the issue of child abuse since the Dutroux scandal.  There is no reason to impugn the Belgian Gendarme as the Vatican has.

The correct body to investigate crime, which these allegations relate to, is the police and the appointed investigating magistrates.  If they believe that documents and records may have been secreted, then it is entirely appropriate for them to make such investigations and seizures as they feel are necessary.  Given the reluctance/refusal of the Catholic Church to assist the police in other countries, notably Ireland where ultimately diplomatic immunity was claimed in relation to the records of the Papal Nuncio, there are grounds for caution in making sure that the opportunity to destroy or remove records is not given.

While the Catholic Church is at liberty to conduct such investigations for internal purposes as it wishes, these are not concurrent or an alternative to the proper investigation by the police, to whom all assistance and provision of evidence should be given, and that would include the records of the internal investigation.

Time will tell whether the records seized by the police assist them in their enquiries.

The Catholic Church persists in failing to ‘get it’ which is tragic for the abused and child protection generally.

[16] Posted by Pageantmaster ن on 6-27-2010 at 08:20 PM · [top]

Nellie -
“...hundreds of thousands of known cases…”?  Can you document that number?  The four major basilicas are not in Rome - they are surrounded by Rome, but by the 1929 Lateran Treaty they are extraterritorial, and so Vatican City territory (as is Castel Gonfolfo).  And, unless you are in union with Peter’s successor, you are not Catholic.

[17] Posted by Father Bob on 6-27-2010 at 08:37 PM · [top]

[14] Nellie,

You cite

…hundreds of thousands of known cases…

Before I suggest that you retract that number, I would first afford you the opportunity to cite your sources for a number of that magnitude. It is the correct order of magnitude for the totality of the criminal complaints of abuse within public school systems in the U.S. for a period of perhaps any given decade in recent times. But the magnitude of the problem in the Catholic Church has not been credibly estimated at anything like that number, globally, anywhere I have seen—in fact that in the Catholic Church has been more than two full orders of magnitude (base ten) less than that in U.S. schools alone.

Since the time when the Vatican required that all such alleged incidents be reported directly to the CDF about a decade ago, the number of cases of abuse involving a minor (someone under 18 years of age, not just children) was about 3000 over nine years (2001-2010). Conversely, the figures for the U.S. public school systems for one year during that same time period comprised molre than 100,000 cases.

I would think it behooves you to cite some credible source for such an staggeringly outrageous numerical claim. Not to mention showing a proportionate concern for the victims of abuse by U.S. school teachers. Absent such a citation, the rest of us should take your comments with the grains of salt worthy of any other unsubstantiated, nay wildly inflated, ravings.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

[18] Posted by Militaris Artifex on 6-27-2010 at 08:46 PM · [top]

Well I am not Nellie, but just how large the problem is we may never know.  There were 10,000 allegations involving 4,300 priests, deacons in the United States alone in 2004.  Since then there have been large scale scandals in Ireland, Germany, Belgium, the Philippines, Malta, and so on.  Does it exceed 100,000?  I sincerely hope not but it is quite possible globally.

With respect Keith, all institutions where children spent time are liable to infiltration by those who wish children harm, and no doubt the US public school system will be part of that.  That is not the issue.  The issue is what is done to deal with the problem and protect children, and specifically the allegation continues to be made that the Catholic Church has systematically failed to deal with the problem, discouraging reporting to the police, hiding evidence, and transferring offenders to remote unsuspecting communities where they have continued to abuse victims.

In the Belgian case there seem very serious allegations about a number of bishops, one of whom has confessed his abuse publicly.  It is only right that the Catholic Church gives full co-operation to the police instead of continuing its right to conduct secret investigations and keep the results as well as the testimony of these crimes away from the Civil authorities.    I do not know of any other institution that considers it can operate in this way separate from and above the civil law.  What is really depressing in the Vatican response is that this continues to be their mindset.  We all have a duty to protect the vulnerable and report suspicions and evidence of crime to the police, and that includes the church.

[19] Posted by Pageantmaster ن on 6-27-2010 at 09:16 PM · [top]

  There were not 10,000 allegations involving 4300 priests in the USA in 2004.  There was a report in 2004 which indicated that over a long period of time (40 - 50 years, I don’t recall the exact number) there were 10,000 allegations involving 4300 priests.  It seems that, whenever any item about this sinful tragedy, the facts continue to be obscured by what people want to believe.  There are approximately 400,000 Catholic priests in the world; to opine that “hundreds of thousasnds of knbown cases exist” is simply ridiculous, and, in my humble opinion, betrays an attitude toward the Catholic Church that has little to do with the issue at hand.  What other church has done the type of investigating and publishing of facts documenting abuse cases?  The Catholic Church has every right to conduct its own investigations; this in no way prevents civil authorities from investigation.  But those who hate the Church will never allow their opinions to be clouded by the facts - nor will they champion similar investigations of other ecclesial communities or public institutions.

[20] Posted by Father Bob on 6-27-2010 at 09:32 PM · [top]

Nellie, Your statements on the Pope border on calumny. I am certain that no action on the part of the Church would satisfy you.  Just what would you have the Pope do?  Is holding to the code of Canon law optional?  Is allowing due process for the accused to be discarded?  Is the presumption of innocence not applicable if the charges involve regard acts we find repugnant in the extreme?  Let me know.   

We long for neat justice.  Where an all knowing, all powerful leader dispenses mercy or punishment by fiat.  Knocking over the accused with an iron fist and not letting petty concerns such as due process and the gathering of evidence stay that fist.  Do you want that type of power in anybody’s hand?  I don’t.  And if that fist can use the veneer of moral authority to justify its pounding, what then?

Keep in mind it was partly the attitude that priests and bishops were not answerable to anyone that allowed so many of the abusers to have free rein and which prevented law enforcement from going against the hierarchy.  Anytime you allow that somebody or some institution is above the law or outside of the laws protection you have tilled the ground for tyranny.  Both of these contentions don’t care who they plow over in pursuit of their ends. 

Real justice is messy.  I said before I was certain evidence would show guilt in these cases.  The article I cited will explain why I believe this.  And I believe findings of guilt should result in full civil and criminal penalties. 

And Pagaentmaster thanks for the info on the Belgian police.  My concern is with the alleged tomb violation and with any statements seized which the victims themselves requested be kept confidential.  But the article was not at all clear about the grounds for the raids.  Which may be faulty (probably is) journalism and not a good reflection of what lead to the raid.

[21] Posted by Paula Loughlin on 6-27-2010 at 09:35 PM · [top]

Okay, Fr. Bob, here’s just one citation for the United States alone - and it only covers up to 2002. Take a look. If you want to put more time and effort into it than I’m willing to, you can check the other countries, too. Wikipedia has some stuff. This link cites a study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York.
<href=“”>link</a> (Hope I did that right. If not, just copy and paste into your address bar.) Fr. Bob, I assume you’re Roman Catholic. An Anglican wouldn’t presume to make the statement you did about who can call himself Catholic. You have absolutely no authority to tell me whether or not I am Catholic. You’re not in Rome here, my friend. And your quibbling about where the basilicas are is ridiculous; do you seriously think you can distract any serious person with that silliness? You know very well what the point is: Law is archpriest of one of those basilicas - in a position of honor - when he should be doing time in an American jail, or at the very least doing penance in some monastery. Every attempt to bury the real point in some silly quibble or some accusation against the nasty press or whatever just makes the Catholic hierarchy look guiltier and guiltier.
Paula , are you serious???? Calumny??? You have to be kidding! As I said to Fr. Bob, you’re not in Rome here; that stuff doesn’t fly here. The pope is a man; he may be a good man or a bad man or an average man, but he’s a man. There have been very good popes and there have been very evil popes. The Pope is not above criticism, especially when he does things that merit criticism. What would I have him do? Well, first of all, as a signal to the many victims of Cardinal Law, I would have him remove him from a position of honor, and I’d really like to se him send Law back to Massachusetts to face the authorities there. I wouldn’t mind at all if the Pope sent Law to a monastery to do penance for the rest of his life - after, of course, giving every last cent of his worldy wealth to the victims. As for due process, that would be great. Law is guilty and everyone knows it, but give him due process by all means. You don’t need some all-knowing, all-powerful hand dispensing certain justice. In this case, all you would need is a judge and jury and the mountain of evidence. Does the name Father John Geoghan ring a bell? I’m no expert on canon law, and I’ll bet you aren’t either, but if canon law allows stuff like this to happen it should be scrapped. You have this compulsion to defend the indefensible. Your faith in the Church must be pretty weak if you can’t face up to her failings and deal with them honestly. Paula, apparently you had some difficulty reading or understanding what I wrote, since I said exactly what you’re saying: it was indeed the attitude that priests and bishops are not answerable to anyone that allowed this mess to happen. That was exactly my point - that that attitude gave them free rein - that attitude which was, and to some extent still is, fostered by the priests and bishops. My impression from reading these comments is that Roman Catholics in this discussion will blindly defend the Church no matter what; logic has no effect, nor do facts. If someone speaks against the Church, he must be anti-Catholic. Well, I’m not anti-Catholic - just anti-evil, anti-corruption, anti-child abuse, anti-injustice - wherever it’s found.

[22] Posted by Nellie on 6-27-2010 at 11:56 PM · [top]

Nellie.  You are wrong on several points.  But let me just focus on something you are right about and by your rightness you illustrate what I was saying.  From your post “You don’t need some all-knowing, all-powerful hand dispensing certain justice. In this case, all you would need is a judge and jury and the mountain of evidence. Does the name Father John Geoghan ring a bell? I’m no expert on canon law, and I’ll bet you aren’t either, but if canon law allows stuff like this to happen it should be scrapped”

How was that evidence obtained?  I have no reason to suspect it was obtained in any but a lawful manner.  And ruling by fiat assumes there is no judge and jury and no due process and no civil rights of the accused.  Was I not clear on that? 

And what exactly do you think Canon law should not allow?  I mentioned assumption of innocence, the rights of the accused, due process and properly obtained evidence.  If it bothers you then you must be horrified with civil law too. 

As to Cardinal Law please show me where any civil authority stated they had evidence enough to bring an indictment.  That said indictment had been squashed by the Church.  That they ever requested extradition of Cardinal Law to face charges.  That any requests were ignored or worse fought by the Vatican.  Again Cardinal Law did not flee.  He was due to take that post. 

Was he wrong?  Did he disgrace and cause scandal?  Did his actions allow harm to the already wounded victims?  Yes.  But not all wrongs rise to the level of criminal complaint.  I agree with you on the penance part.  But I have no idea of his worldly wealth.  If you are privy to that information perhaps you could enlighten me.

I have plenty of criticism for many Bishops not just on this matter but on others.  But I can not levy that same criticism on the Pope as it would be unfounded.  I truly believe he is the Pope the Church needs now and he may very well be overseeing the beginning of a great reckoning.

[23] Posted by Paula Loughlin on 6-28-2010 at 12:15 AM · [top]


Again Cardinal Law did not flee.  He was due to take that post.

Too convenient by half, Paula.  Nothing kept the Vatican from rescinding the appointment given the circumstances.  Even if they did do it from innocent motives, they gave the appearance of hustling a bishop out of the jurisdiction to avoid an embarrassing display of deposition and testimony and possible charges.  The Vatican would have to have a tin ear for public relations not to realize this.  So people naturally assume the Vatican did it for cause.  They assume the cost to the Vatican of Bishop Law staying was greater than the cost of Bishop Law fleeing.  And, really, who can blame them?


[24] Posted by carl on 6-28-2010 at 12:25 AM · [top]

Father Bob wrote to Nellie at #17:

And, unless you are in union with Peter’s successor, you are not Catholic.

Respectfully, Father Bob, we Anglicans disagree. We believe that we are Catholic (howbeit not Roman Catholic) and whilst we are happy to be in communion with the Pope (on scriptural terms) we are certainly not in union with him!

And most of us wouldn’t agree that he is Peter’s successor in any sense that matters (or at least, no more than any other primate/patriarch). 

Back to the thread - its a hard one. I believe that the Pope is entitled to publicly question police methods, as indeed is anyone. But as for reaching some sort of judgment on the case as a whole, there is just too much conflicting information. Churchmen covering up sins or overzealous prosecutors on a witch-hunt? Either is possible, and either way its all very very sad.

[25] Posted by MichaelA on 6-28-2010 at 04:53 AM · [top]


I think that this story is edited to make the Pope look bad, the full story seems to be he “is indignant over Belgian Police raid of Bishops’ tombs,” in a very odd Dan Brown sort of thinking.

Bloomberg’s version of the story

I have to say this situation reads very different in my mind, the way Nicole Winfield wrote it sounds like the Pope is upset at the investigation, which my sympathies would be like your, however, adding the detail Flavia Krause-Jackson did with the raid on the tombs, that is what has his ire, my sympathies are with him.

[26] Posted by Hosea6:6 on 6-28-2010 at 07:17 AM · [top]

Paula (22), you say I am wrong on several points. You’re entitled to think what you like. I think you think I’m wrong because I criticise the Pope. I disagree with youu completely that this is the Pope the Church needs now. I sure would like to see Archbishop Chaput of Denver as Pope. He is outspoken in his criticism of anything ungodly and not in keeping with Christ’s teaching. I also would have liked to see Cardinal Arinze of Africa as Pope. I thought Ratzinger was going to be good, but I didn’t know then what I know now. Bottom line: the Pope’s - any any bishop’s or priest’s - first responsibility is to the flock, not to the institutional bureaucracy. In this the Pope and many, many bishops and clergy have failed miserably. Period. As for Law skedaddling to Rome with Rome’s help, I defer to Carl’s post(24). Hosea, I don’t really see much difference in the Bloomberg story. And why on earth would one asttach any credibility to a statement released by the Belgian
Bishops’ Conference? Why would you believe anything a bishop says about this scandal, unless you know for a fact that the particular bishop is a good, honest man? These lying snakes have destroyed their own credibility. They’ve lied so often and so bklatantly that you don’t know when they’re telling the truth in this scandal. I have said all along on this thread that I don’t know the whole story of the raid, and neither do you; I don’t see how you can conclude that the raid on the tombs was necessarily unwarranted. The original post mentioned a tip. I don’t imagine the police in Brussels randomly decided to raid some tombs just because they want to defile them because they hate the Church. This isn’t about some two-man police force in some backwater town somewhere in the hills. [My apologies to those who, like me, live in a little backwater town in the hills!;-)]

[27] Posted by Nellie on 6-28-2010 at 08:58 AM · [top]

Dear MichaelA
Of course people are free to call themselves whatever they wish.  However, it seems what you refer to as the “Roman Catholic” Church is a misnomer, as Maronite Catholics, Ukranian Catholics, Coptic Catholics, Syro-Malabar Catholics, Greek Catholics, Roman Catholics, and all the other rites which have their own hierarchies, their own theologies, their own canon laws, their own liturgical calendars, are all part of the one, holy, Catholic, Apostolic Church because each is in union with the successor of Peter.  I do not belong to the Roman Catholic Church, but I am a member of the Catholic Church who belongs to the Latin/Roman rite.  Hence Paula’s comment on the negative aspect of the term “Romanist.”  Call yourself what you will, an “Anglo-Catholic” not in union with the successor of Peter is a Protestant, and a Protestant simply cannot be a Catholic.

[28] Posted by Father Bob on 6-28-2010 at 10:43 AM · [top]

Dear Nellie,

“...Law is guilty and everyone knows it….”  But give him due process?  Give him due process and then hang him?  Again, in my humble opinion, this remark reveals much more than an opinion about the matter at hand. 
The location and jurisdictional authority of the four major basilicas is not “silly,” it is a fact, a fact which you misrepresented and so which needed to be corrected.  Facts do not equal silliness.  The John Jay report reported on abuse statistics over a number of years, not solely in 2002, 2004, or in any other single year.  And I am free to call myself a Australian, a New Yorker, a Frenchman, or a Nigerian if I wish; my calling myself something does not make it so.  Protestant can not equal Catholic.

[29] Posted by Father Bob on 6-28-2010 at 10:56 AM · [top]

#28 Fr Bob - I see you may be from the Ukrainian Catholics.  We have had a few nutcases from there.

[30] Posted by Pageantmaster ن on 6-28-2010 at 10:59 AM · [top]

RE: “However, it seems what you refer to as the “Roman Catholic” Church is a misnomer . . . “

No, actually, it’s not.  Protestants use it to refer to those churches who submit to and are in full communion with the See of Rome.  It’s quite clear what it means, and the main reason why *certain* RC’s don’t like it is because they prefer to reserve the word “Catholic” to themselves with no adjectival modifier. 

Obviously, Protestants don’t buy that, nor will they use the rhetoric that RCs prefer.

MichaelA, feel free to carry on with use of that excellent descriptive adjective, and All—we simply won’t be debating that issue on this blog.

All—please get back on topic.  Thanks.

[31] Posted by Sarah on 6-28-2010 at 11:04 AM · [top]

Pageantmaster -
You’ve tipped your hand with your caustic remark about Ukranian Catholics.  And…I do not belong to the Ukranian Catholic Rite.

[32] Posted by Father Bob on 6-28-2010 at 11:05 AM · [top]

Fr. Bob,
You’re still quibbling. The basilicas may not be in Rome proper, but it is obvious that the Vatican is often referred to as “Rome” and these basilicas are under direct Vatican jurisdiction. The fact of the exact physical location is not what’s important here. The fact that Law is at a major basilica directly under the Pope is what’s important. The fact that he was a major participant in the funeral services of John Paul II is what’s important. I tell you the Church is a mess, and you quibble about the exact physical location of a church building. That tells me where you’re coming from. It also tells me that you have no argument with which to rebut the main point - that Law has been given a position of honor, which is a scandal and a major injustice to the victims of the priests he protected, a scandal which has caused many to turn away from the Church.
You are quibbling yet again about the designation “Roman Catholic Church” - a q

[33] Posted by Nellie on 6-28-2010 at 11:05 AM · [top]

Folks—further comments on that topic will be deleted and commenters warned.

Get back on topic please.  Thanks.

[34] Posted by Sarah on 6-28-2010 at 11:06 AM · [top]

Paula -
Right on!  “Ut unum sint.”

[35] Posted by Father Bob on 6-28-2010 at 11:07 AM · [top]

Sorry - I accidentally hit “Submit” before I had finished.
Well, I see others have posted before I finished this and said pretty much what I was going to say.
Paula, everyone may know Law is guilty, yet he is legally entitled to a trial. Knowing he’s guilty doesn’t mean he’s thrown in jail without further ado. There are plenty of priests and bishops against whom there is staggering evidence, but thye’re still entitled to trial. I may see someone kill a man and his fingerprints may be all over the gun and he may be caught on video, but the killer is still entitled to trial. You seem to confuse moral certainty, or eyewitness knowledge, with leagl trial and conviciton. If Law was innocent of wrongdoing, why didn’t he stick around and face the music? Why did Rome protect him? Why did the Pope censure Cardinal Schoenborn of Vienna for criticising another Cardinal for covering up abuse with the help of the Vatican? Supposedly a Cardinal isn’t supposed to criticise another Cardinal; only a Pope can do that. Why is Rome still protecting the protectors? This scandal is so widespread, so deeply rooted, so damaging, that one cannot assume that the civil authorities are being unreasonable when dealing with it. They are faced with stonewalling with lack of cooperation, with lies. This is a complicated situation. The Church has brought htis on itself. It is not the innocent victim here. Taht would be the countless children and young people whose lives have been forever changed by their abusers.

[36] Posted by Nellie on 6-28-2010 at 11:23 AM · [top]

Thanks for Hosea 6:6’s post of the Bloomberg report.  This one also indicates that what the Vatican particularly objected to was the video search of the tombs, and there and also on the BBC it is being reported that the Church commission which had been taking confidential testimony for about eight weeks has resigned.  Its former chairman (a reputable child psychiatrist, not a priest or bishop) says that statements were take with a promise of confidentiality and they are now getting calls and emails from people afraid that their confidential statements will soon be in the news.  In effect:  the Church launched an investigation into sexual abuse and that investigation has now been shut down by the police without notice and without explanation.  (All of the commission’s files were taken.)

It’s not too logical to insist that the Church must respond to the scandal with increased scrutiny of its own actions, and then remove the possibility of doing so.  If the Belgian police have evidence that a cover-up was underway we will soon see that.

[37] Posted by Katherine on 6-28-2010 at 12:10 PM · [top]

Nellie, out of respect for our hosts I am not going to discuss Cardinal Law any further or general condemnations of the entire Catholic church.  The action of the police in Belgium may arisen from properly
obtained testimony.  If it did and if such action is the norm when dealing with such accusations I don’t think the Church is beyond the scope of the law.  I believe in full transparancy as long as that transparancy does not violated the requested confidence of victims or the sacrament of the confession or other privleged communications as recognized in law. 

And if tombs were truly violated I think it can not be justified by the police listening to rumor or suspicion.  That should take a credible eye witness who could name documents and the presence of Church officials to verify that no desecration of any remains had occured.

[38] Posted by Paula Loughlin on 6-28-2010 at 01:24 PM · [top]

Hi Paula
I know little of Belgian law, but suspect that it follows the codes of France or Germany.  As I understand it an examining magistrate and the police are entitled to expect full and truthful cooperation from all citizens including the churches when investigating allegations of crime.

Although under church law the sacrament of confession may be binding on a priest, it may not be in relation to knowledge of criminal conduct under the secular law.  It is always a problem when church and civil law systems collide, but the civil system quite rightly in my view requires the detection of crime and apprehending of wrongdoers to take priority.  This can certainly be a problem for priests with conflicting duties, but at the end of the day the secrecy of the confessional or the privacy of witness statements outside it are not things the church is able to grant where it assists crime.

I have to say my eyebrows rose when I heard about the insertion of cameras into the tombs, but presumably this was based on some form of tip off.  When you think about it, if there was no tip off that documents had been hidden, it is hard to think of a place which would be less likely to be searched.    I think it is indicative however of the decline of respect for the Catholic Church in Belgium and other European countries that a catholic nation like that would start with the assumption that the church would cover up crime.

Isn’t that the real tragedy that the RC church has to get to grips with?

[39] Posted by Pageantmaster ن on 6-28-2010 at 02:06 PM · [top]

Okay, let’s start disentangling a few matters here.

(1) My use of Evil Romanists was heavily sarcastic.  I don’t think Nellie was using it seriously, either.  Oh, and by the way, I am indeed one of those self-same Evil Romanists.

(2) Documents hidden in tombs.  Yes, indeed: I am a bishop who wishes to cover up a scandal, I have incriminating documents right here, and instead of using the chancery shredder or buring them to ashes, I decide to hide them in the grave of my predecessor in the see.  But being stupid (as you can see) as well as wicked, I neglect to keep this secret and so an anonymous tip-off to the police reveals my wicked scheme, except that THERE WEREN’T ANY HIDDEN DOCUMENTS FOUND.  (Sorry for shouting, but really!)

That kind of thinking belongs in a Chick tract or in the Satanic abuse panic of the 80s, the exemplars of which over here in the British Isles were cases in the North of England and in Scotland.  In the 90s, social workers forcibly removed children from their families with allegations of organised Satanic ritual abuse, which later turned out to be false:
There were all kinds of allegations of blood drinking, animal and human sacrifice, and the like.

So no, I’m not a criminal investigator, but when I hear overblown allegations that would better belong in a Hammer Horror, then I take leave to doubt their veracity.

(3) The independent commission investigating claims was also raided and files taken away against the wishes of the victims claiming abuse.  I don’t see how interfering with the work of a body helping those who have alleged abuse, and who chose not to go to the police for whatever reason, is going to make things any better.

(4) Finally, if there is any solid evidence that the Church in Belgium is not co-operating with the legal system, then I will be watching to see it.  But as it stands, I don’t think there’s anything more going to come out of this than a photo-op for the magistrate to say “I’m doing something!”.  I don’t think any new evidence will be found or anything that will advance any trials currently taking place.

[40] Posted by Martha on 6-28-2010 at 04:39 PM · [top]

Finally, can I say that I believe what the Pope meant was that the raids were deplorable in the manner in which they were carried out, and not that it is deplorable that the police are investigating claims?

“Police sources told the Flemish newspaper De Standaard that the raids were carried out because of suspicions that church leaders were failing to hand over all the necessary materials to the commission of inquiry. That was not confirmed by Adriaenssens.”

So instead of asking the commission “Are you getting full co-operation or do you think that they are not handing over everything?”, the police raid the commission offices and take away all the files.  Yes, that’s helpful.  Again, I ask any lawyers on here: what’s your opinion on this, and do you think that if there is a civil or criminal case in future, that this action may be prejudicial to it?

[41] Posted by Martha on 6-28-2010 at 04:48 PM · [top]

The problem is, Martha, that Belgian law will be based on either French or Dutch protocols, and those are not like the U.S. or its English common law antecedents.  I don’t know if these actions exceed ordinary police powers in Belgium.  I remember reading about oddities in Dutch law in conjunction with the investigation of the sensational case of Natalie Holloway’s disappearance.

[42] Posted by Katherine on 6-28-2010 at 04:58 PM · [top]

Good point about the possibility that the law is different in Belgium. Perhaps more will come out in the dyas to come. So far, I haven’t seen a whole lot of detail anywhere. As for just asking the commission if they’re co-operating and handing everything over, Martha, I’ve said this before: why should anyone expect a truthful statement from the bishops at this point? There have been so many lies, so much secrecy. And Pageantmaster, you’re absolutely right that the real tragedy for the Church is that it is no longer respected nor trusted in even Catholic countries like Belgium because of its reprehensible conduct in the scandal.

[43] Posted by Nellie on 6-28-2010 at 05:58 PM · [top]

Well, it looks like the Belgian enquiry panel thought the raid a bad idea too:

Mr. Andriaenssens is the same man who conducted investigations in the murder of the two young girls by Marc Duroux(sp? sorry, don’t have time to track that name down just now).

[44] Posted by TACit on 6-28-2010 at 06:21 PM · [top]

Nellie, I don’t think Catholic bishops should be presumed guilty unless proven innocent.  It should be remembered that although there are appalling cases of abuse there are also many Catholic priests and bishops who are faithful to their vows.  As to Belgium being a “Catholic country,” I imagine it is little different from other parts of Europe, whether nominally Catholic or nominally Protestant.  The faith is a thin veneer or a cultural attachment rather than an active faith.

[45] Posted by Katherine on 6-28-2010 at 06:23 PM · [top]

The bishops’ commission disbanded itself in protest; the police did not disband it. See the AP article at this link, which is fairly informative but still doesn’t go into a lot of detail:
Again, I apologize for not being able to insert a link correctly - I’m somewhat technologically challenged! confused
The confidentiality issue is a bit of a concern; however, the thought does cross one’s mind that the victims may have been pressured by the bishops not to go to the police. It’s been known to happen.
Now, I’m going to retire from the thread, since there really isn’t much we haven’t already said here. There’s nothing to be accomplished by beating a dead horse, and I have better things to do - like play with my new Wii. wink

[46] Posted by Nellie on 6-28-2010 at 06:28 PM · [top]

The police effectively stopped the commission’s work by taking all of its files—not copies, all of their materials.  I agree that more information is needed, including the results of the police probe, before valid opinions can be formed.

[47] Posted by Katherine on 6-28-2010 at 06:33 PM · [top]

Can’t resist one more commebnt: I never said Catholic bishops in general should be prseumed guilty until proven innocent - although, by the way, if I remember my Frend civilization lessons correctly from high school and college, in France, unlike here, one charged with a crime is condidered guilty until proven innocent. That’s horrendous to us, of course. In any case, what I’m saying is that it’s kind of difficult to completely trust bishops since they don’t wear labels telling you whether they’re prt of the cover-up or not - and it is indeed widespread.

[48] Posted by Nellie on 6-28-2010 at 06:38 PM · [top]

I thought the interference with gravesites was extreme, perhaps part of Europe’s general anti-clerical trend, which uses the RC tragedy to its own ends. It’s certainly impossible to deny the justification for continuing transparency and investigation.  But I hope it is not off-topic to mention that MercatorNet has published discussions of important studies dealing with the number of abuse cases in the Catholic Church, and it is much smaller than mainstream media often imply—or #14 above.  See, for example, statistics in the following article:
Mercator, April 3 2010, by Michael Cook

Here are a few quotations:
“To understand . . . we must ask how many priests are paedophiles. The largest body of information has been collected in the United States, where in 2004 the US Conference of Catholic Bishops commissioned an independent study by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice of the City University of New York. This is not a Catholic university and is unanimously recognised as the most authoritative academic institution of criminology in the United States.

“This study concluded that from 1950 to 2002 4,392 American priests (of over 109,000) were accused of having sexual relations with minors. Of these, just over 100 were convicted in the courts. The low number of convictions is due to various factors. In some cases the true or alleged victims reported priests who were already dead, or for whom a statute of limitation barred the action. In others, the accusation and even the canonical sentence did not involve any violation of the law: such is the case, for example, in various American states where a priest has sexual relations with a consenting person over the age of 16. But there have also been many sensational cases of priests who have been falsely accused. Indeed, these cases multiplied in the 1990s, when some legal firms recognised they could reap million dollar returns even on the basis of mere suspicion.
“According to studies by Jenkins [Philip Jenkins, of Pennsylvania State University], if one compares the Catholic Church in the United States to the major Protestant denominations, one discovers that the presence of paedophiles ­ depending on the denominations ­ is from two to ten times higher for the major Protestant denominations compared to Catholic priests. The question is important because it demonstrates that the problem is not celibacy. Most of the Protestant pastors are married.

“In the same period in which about 100 American priests were convicted for sexually abusing minors, the number of gym teachers and coaches of junior sporting teams ­ also mainly married ­ who were convicted of the same crimes in the US reached about 6,000. The examples could continue, not only in the US. And above all, according to regular US government reports, two-thirds of sexual abuse against minors does not come from strangers or educators ­ including priests and Protestant pastors ­ but from family members: stepfathers, uncles, cousins, brothers and, unfortunately, even parents. Similar facts exist for numerous other countries.

“While it may hardly be politically correct to say so, there is a fact that is much more important: . . . [O]ver 90 percent of Catholic priests convicted for sexually abusing minors have been homosexual. If a problem has sprung up in the Catholic Church, it is not due to celibacy but to a certain tolerance of homosexuality in seminaries, particularly in the 1970s, when most of the priests later convicted for the abuses were ordained.”

[49] Posted by Paula on 6-28-2010 at 08:43 PM · [top]

Paula quoted from the Mercator link:

“According to studies by Jenkins [Philip Jenkins, of Pennsylvania State University], if one compares the Catholic Church in the United States to the major Protestant denominations, one discovers that the presence of paedophiles ­ depending on the denominations ­ is from two to ten times higher for the major Protestant denominations compared to Catholic priests. The question is important because it demonstrates that the problem is not celibacy. Most of the Protestant pastors are married.

I suggest this is another area where we have to avoid going a long way off-topic. What Paula is actually quoting from, is not an article by Michael Cook, but rather an article by Massimo Introvigne, who could charitably be described as a gentleman with a single-minded view of the world. He is vice-president of Alleanza Cattolica, and has been closely associated with Silvio Berlusconi and his political campaigns. He is a controversial figure, even among Roman Catholics.

I could demonstrate (in great detail) how the “research” he cites in support of a suggestion that pedophilia is “two to ten times higher” among protestant pastors than RC priests has no credibility (the truth is, nobody can say for certain). But I think that in so responding I would make the same mistake, of going a long way off-topic.

The issue on this thread is not a comparison of rates of pedophilia between different denominations, nor whether priestly celibacy has any relevance to pedophilia.

Rather, the issues (as I understand them) may be summarised as follows:

(a) the manner in which a particular investigation has been conducted in Belgium;

(b) the specific complaints which the Vatican has made about certain aspects of the conduct of that investigation by the Belgian authorities; and

(c) particular aspects, being interference with graves, and seizing the records of an already-existing internal investigation.

Its difficult to see how the material in Signor Introvigne’s article bears on any of those issues.

[50] Posted by MichaelA on 6-28-2010 at 10:10 PM · [top]

The number of priest perpetrators and number of victims in the United States situation is public information:

About 10,500 minors (age 1-17) brought allegations against about 4300 priests over 50 years. That’s about 4% of the men who served as priests over that period. That was set up with a very low standard of proof: basically any allegation that wasn’t withdrawn or couldn’t be shown as false was accepted.

Per Phillip Jenkins, this is also relevant:

At the heart of the clergy abuse crisis was a core of highly persistent serial pedophiles, who massively “over-produced” criminal behavior, and some were the targets of hundreds of plausible complaints. Out of 100,000 priests active in the U.S. in this half-century, a cadre of just 149 individuals—one priest out of every 750—accounted for over a quarter of all the allegations of clergy abuse. These 149 super-predators also explain the surprisingly large number of very young victims that the study reported.

By the way, this is true of any population of identified sex offenders. The notion that everyone on the sex offender registry is a true predator is absurd. Sex offenders range from the romeo case (19 yo boy and consenting 15 yo girl) to single incident cases to serial rapists and child molesters (the real predators). 

Jenkin’s study Pedophiles and Priests was written before the Boston scandals of 2002, but it hardly matters: only the names have changed and if you are really interested in the welfare of children, as opposed to pushing some agenda or another, it’s required reading.

Note: Jenkins is a former Catholic, now an Episcopalian.

Also helpful, the researcher Carol Shakescraft has published on educator misconduct:

I understand she’s in the process of updating that reporting and publishing her findings in book form. The money quote from an article about her findings:

“the physical sexual abuse of students in schools is likely more than 100 times the abuse by priests.”

That’s from here:

Personally, I think that 100 times is exaggerated, but the bottom line is that the rate of abuse by Catholic clergy is no higher, and may be somewhat lower than abuse committed by other professionals with access to children.

My apologies is I’m repeating what someone else is posted. I skimmed the last part of the thread when the vitriol and ad hominem argumentation got to me.

[51] Posted by Words Matter on 6-28-2010 at 11:37 PM · [top]

Words Matter,

Those are very good points, particularly the research indicating that abuse by schoolteachers in the US may run at up to 100 times the rate of abuse by priests.

I should correct one point in my post at #50 - I was not necessarily taking issue with Jenkins’ research, but with the use made of it by Massimo Introvigne, in particular the suggestion that the research proved that abuse by protestant pastors is “two to ten times” the rate of abuse by Roman Catholic priests. As I wrote above, the truth is that the data is not available to draw such a conclusion, but such a correlation seems extremely unlikely. Its just one more of Introvigne’s wild claims.

My question still stands: What does all this have to do with the Vatican’s criticism of the manner in which the Belgian investigation has been conducted, or with such specific issues as drilling into tombs, and seizing documents from an internal investigation that had begun, but not yet been concluded? Surely the Vatican is entitled to raise these issues regardless of what the rate of child abuse may be among priests in another country, and surely they must be considered objectively?

(I am not commenting on whether or not the Vatican’s complaints are justified - I just don’t know - but I am certainly not dismissing them out of hand)

[52] Posted by MichaelA on 6-29-2010 at 12:07 AM · [top]

By the way, an excellent quote from Words Matters’ link to Jenkins’ article:

As a result of the furious investigations of the past decades, and particularly the Jay study, the U.S. Catholic clergy are now the only major group on the planet that has ever been subjected to such a detailed examination of abuse complaints, using internal evidence that could not have come to light in any other way. Nothing vaguely comparable exists for other groups, for Presbyterian pastors or Lutheran clergy or, indeed, journalists.

That should be borne in mind by all, before we end up making lurid claims that the evidence simply does not support.

On the other hand, the comments which follow in Jenkins’ article concerning the rate of abuse among teachers should give vocal opponents of all churches pause for thought.

[53] Posted by MichaelA on 6-29-2010 at 12:15 AM · [top]

MichaelA, in responding to a particular comment above (#14) that there were “hundreds of thousands” of RC abuse cases, I tried to show some statistics to refute that impression—or the idea we generally get from mainline media that the church is more particularly culpable than others.  I have seen the same Mercator statistics used, to better effect, elsewhere in more scholarly work; but this was the one source I had handy when I wrote.  I did not say I agreed with any speculative aspects of the article.  It is, as you say, from a particular viewpoint, and yet it contains some figures that can be corroborated.  I do think that actions like the violation of the gravesites in Belgium may result, in part, from an anti-church climate that is fueled by journalists’ disproportionate concentration on the priests and a failure to compare the smallish number of RC abuse convictions with convictions for child abuse in the society at large.

[54] Posted by Paula on 6-29-2010 at 03:18 AM · [top]

#54 Paula

I do think that actions like the violation of the gravesites in Belgium may result, in part, from an anti-church climate that is fueled by journalists’ disproportionate concentration on the priests and a failure to compare the smallish number of RC abuse convictions with convictions for child abuse in the society at large.

It seems to me that the police in Belgium are entitled to seize any documents from the RC Church there, in the same way that they would from any other body and that includes making sure that members of that body do not alert others during the police raid by keeping them incommunicado.

It is also normal where it is believed that records may have been secreted to look for secret hiding places within buildings when raiding premises, and although it is somewhat bizarre, if they have reason to believe they may be there, looking inside burial vaults.

None of the above is outside the rights of the police in investigating crime, particularly where there has already been a confession, as there has been in this case.

Allegations of anti-Catholic bias are so nebulous as to be unprovable when looking at the police actions.  Meanwhile the Belgian Government has asked the Vatican to desist from further interference in the police investigation.

[55] Posted by Pageantmaster ن on 6-29-2010 at 03:59 AM · [top]

[52] MichaelA,

You wrote

My question still stands: What does all this have to do with the Vatican’s criticism of the manner in which the Belgian investigation has been conducted, or with such specific issues as drilling into tombs, and seizing documents from an internal investigation that had begun, but not yet been concluded?

Assuming you haven’t read every comment, the answer is that it doesn’t directly relate to it. Much of it relates to the hysterically inaccurate statement by Nellie, at comment 14, that there have been [emphasis added]

hundreds of thousands of known cases….

I say hysterically inaccurate, because the number of alleged incidents in the U.S. in a span of 52 years was 100,000 cases, which is of exactly the same order of magnitude as alleged instances in the U.S. public school systems in one school year, as published in a U.S. Dept. of Justice report.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

[56] Posted by Militaris Artifex on 6-29-2010 at 09:52 AM · [top]

Sorry, #56, but I wouldn’t characterize that comment #124 as “hysterically inaccurate” when you yourself say the number of alleged incidents in the U.S. in 52 years was 100,000. That doesn’t include the years between 2002 and 2010, and it doesn’t include the allegations that have ocme to light in Europe and elsewhere. The fact is (and I know this from a Catholic priest firend) that the Church in America has a “slush fund” to help dioceses who don’t have enough insurance to cover the lawsuits against them, contributed to by unknowing parishioners when they put their offering in the basket on Sundays. This same4 Catholic priest tells me he knew priests who wouldn’t wear their collars in public when the allegations first “hit the fan,” so to speak, because they were ashamed to be identified as priests. And again, whatever happens in public schools, sports teams, etc. is irrelevant. Do you think Jesus would say that it isn’t so bad that his shepherds have abused His flock, because after all, people in secular society do it too? What a load of horse manure! Anyway, do you think it matters a whole lot whether the Church as an institution protected 1,000 pedophile priests or 100,000? Get real, folks. This discussion is somewhat off topic in a way, but in a way it serves as background for why civil authorities may feel they have to be a bit pre-emptive in their investigations. Many of the priests involved had multiple allegations against them (I’ll admit the large number refers to allegations against priests, not to the number of priests) - why? Because they were protected and moved around to other fields ripe for the picking, their crimes covered up by church authorities. Civil authorities had little cooperation from church authorities until public opinion and pressure form the victims forced it. I think that pageantmaster’s comment #55 is right on, to the point, and absolutely on topic. It says it all. The discussion here started out being about the Belgian raid.

[57] Posted by Nellie on 6-29-2010 at 10:21 AM · [top]

You are both wrong.

The actual number of victims in the U.S. from 1950-2002 was about ten thousand, five hundred (10,500). That’s an average of 200 per year, which could add up to 1600 for the period since 2002. Except that by the 1990s, the number of incidents per year had dropped to 50 or so, making it more likely there have been around 400 or less, given reforms enacted in 2002-2004.

whatever happens in public schools, sports teams, etc. is irrelevant.

How about in protestant churches? The name “Bennison” ring a bell. Again, rates of offense are about the same for Catholic priest and protestant clergy. If you want to make a case that the Catholic Church has a special problem, go ahead. The facts don’t support that case, however.

Anyway, do you think it matters a whole lot whether the Church as an institution protected 1,000 pedophile priests or 100,000?

That depends on your interest. If you care about the welfare of children, you will be interested in the scope and scale of the problem instead of scapegoating one particular organization. I’ve been following this story since the Rudy Kos scandal in the mid-90s and have come to one conclusion. This is a societal problem, not a specifically Catholic or religious problem.

I put the wrong link in for the John Jay study. Here’s the main one.

[58] Posted by Words Matter on 6-29-2010 at 01:12 PM · [top]

[57] Nellie,

My apologies for the typo, the actual number was not 100,000 in 52 years, but about 10,000 (actually ≈10,500, quoted earlier in the thread, and reiterated at comment 57).

As to my characterization that your comments were “hysterically inaccurate,” I wouldn’t expect you to agree. If you had agreed, you would have stopped short of most of your exaggerated, inflammatory, and thus far unsubstantiated, allegations against the Catholic Church, Benedict XVI, etc., etc., etc. After all, I did invite you to cite your sources—thus far I have read little from you other than a screed of mostly unsubstantiated, uninformed and opinionated invective. You might wish to consider dealing in items of information that are, at least published statements, alleged to be factual, rather than engaging in what amounts to shrill vitriol.

And no, I wouldn’t begin to

think Jesus would say that it isn’t so bad.

In point of fact, I never suggested any such thing, and for you to suggest that such was my point simply serves to illustrate how shrill your comments are. I simply suggested that your reaction was “over the top,” which is to say that most of your comments were wildly speculative and disproportionately angry in tone. I suspect that I am not alone in that assessment amongst the readers of this thread. I dare say that Words Matter, had a similar reaction to your comments.

Pax et bonum,
Keith Töpfer

[59] Posted by Militaris Artifex on 6-29-2010 at 02:08 PM · [top]

Keith, I had the same reaction as well—and I’m not Catholic, nor intending to be at this point.

In the U.S., the police actions taken would have to be backed up with probable cause and search warrants.  This may not be the case in Belgium, and so we cannot say until the investigation is complete and charges, if any, are filed, whether the actions were solid or merely a fishing expedition intended to be sure the police force was not tarred again with the dirt from the previous (secular) cases which caused so much uproar.

[60] Posted by Katherine on 6-29-2010 at 02:33 PM · [top]

If the Chruch as an institution protected one hundred priests, it would be scandalous. To protect the perpetrator, thereby giving hinm the opportunity to harm more victims, is unconscionable. The shepherds are suppiosed to be guarding the flock, not the wolves. I checked John Jay and realized the higher figure is the number of totla abuse cases overall in the U.S. for the period. In my research, I also read - and actually knew before - that some of the cases were not true pedophilia, but preying on adolescent males by homosexual priests. Worldwide, more and more cases are coming to light - including in Ireland, where there was widespread abuse by both priests and nuns, as well as in Germany, Austria, Belgium, Switzerland, Australia, etc. There may be cases we haven’t heard of as well, and maybe never will.
We are not discussing abuse in Protestant churches nor in schools on this thread. We are discussing - or are supposed to be discussing - the situation in Belgium. “Shrill vitriol”? Really! I happen to feel rather strongly about abuse of children by priests with the cooperation of bishops. Perhaps I feel particularly strongly about abuse by Catholic clergy because of the claims by the Church to have absolute moral authority. I am angry, and I was betrayed by the Church, as were you, although apparently you don’t know it or don’t care. People should be vitriolic about this stuff. It’s not a little peccadillo. The fact remains: In this particular case, we don’t know the whole story of what happened in Belgium, but there has been so much secrecy, so much covering up, so much disregard of justice by the Church that it’s reasonable to be somewhat suspicious that had the police asked nicely, they may have been stonewalled. Things may have been hidden, or incomplete files handed over, or whatever. The Church is no different from anyne suspected of a crime. It is not above the law. Why, Keith et al, do you refuse to address that issue and insist instead on concentrating on my “vitriol”?

[61] Posted by Nellie on 6-29-2010 at 03:32 PM · [top]

Nellie, could you point to posts here where people have said the Church ought to be above the law, or that the sexual abuse cases should be ignored?

The point which you have apparently just recently discovered has been reported and discussed in great detail in numerous news reports and on numerous websites for years.  The priestly abuse cases in the U.S. were overwhelmingly homosexual in nature, most of them on adolescent boys.  The Vatican has reacted to this by, so far as I know, worldwide, imposing a ban on the admission of any man who has a persistent and strong homosexual orientation to training for the priesthood.  It also seems that most of the cases we continue to read about, including, if I am not mistaken, this recent Belgian scandal, occurred in the past; that is, we are not seeing huge numbers of recently-occurring abuse or recent coverups.  Creaky as it is, the Catholic hierarchy is reacting to its collective sins and attempting correction.

[62] Posted by Katherine on 6-29-2010 at 03:52 PM · [top]

I have not recently discovered the homosexual thing, Katherine. As I have posted on other threads at other times, I knew a priest who oversaw a major seminary in the 1960’s who shocked me at the time with the news that homsexuality was a major problem in the seminaries that they were trying to deal with. Apparently they didn’t deal with it too well. As for the Vatican’s reaction, it was decades too late. They knew they had this problem for a long, long time - at least since I was young (as I said, a long, long time). And of course there are fewer cases being reported in recent years - because of the pressure brought to bear by the victims and by society. (Seems to me I’ve said that before - several times.)
I can cite posts that specifically blame the media, civil authorites, anti-Catholic sentiment, etc. for the Belgian raid and things like it: some of those would be #‘s 3, 4, 5, 6, 11, 26, 40, 54. Several posts, including #17, seem to imply that other churches and the educational system are as bad or worse - which, as I read it, seems to me to be an attempt to diminish the horrendous guilt of the Church. #23 says the criticsm of the Pope is unfounded. Really? How does the poster know that? There is so much bias in some of these comments. The implication seems to be that the police are nasty and the media are nasty for going after the Church. What should they do? Should they treat the Church authorities any differently than they would an ordinary citizen suspected of abuse or of covering up crimes?
I have never said that anyone suggested that the abuse should be ignored. Where did you get that from? Nothing I have said could possibly be read that way.
I am not anti-Catholic, I sasy again. I don’t know what happened in Belgium in full; not one of us does. I do know that it’s not unreasonable for the police to have conducted the raid, and they may well have had some information about the tombs. None of us knows what that information was, or how credible it was. Why are some of you so ready to assume the police were the thugs?
I have written on oter threads numerous times in defense of the Church in other matters. I have commented that celibacy isn’t responsible for this mess. I dislike any kind of bigotry or ignorant hatred of a group.
I say again that most of these comments stray from the topic, which is simple: the Belgian raid and the Poope’s comment, and wander into a blind defense of the Church against the anti-Catholic bigots in the police and the media. Heaven knows, in many cases the Church needs defenders against the media.

[63] Posted by Nellie on 6-29-2010 at 04:46 PM · [top]

Since, as you point out, Nellie, none of us knows what information the police had before the raids or what they found, assumptions that the bishops are innocent of any deception or that they are guilty of deception are unwarranted.  Best to wait until the evidence is in the public eye.

[64] Posted by Katherine on 6-29-2010 at 05:10 PM · [top]

Paula at #54 wrote,

MichaelA, in responding to a particular comment above (#14) that there were “hundreds of thousands” of RC abuse cases, I tried to show some statistics to refute that impression—or the idea we generally get from mainline media that the church is more particularly culpable than others. ...

If that had been all, I would not have had a problem. But, respectfully, you went a lot further than that. And you didn’t just give a link, or make some comments of your own - you picked out particular passages to quote.

One of those was the lurid claim that Jenkins’ research supports the idea that pedophilia is “two to ten times higher” among protestant pastors than among Catholic priests. It doesn’t. Even if one tries to spin the figures by defining certain age groups of victims as pedophilia and others as ephebophilia, it still doesn’t work - there is simply not enough data to even start to construct such a comparison.

I have seen this claim bandied around before, and not just on Roman Catholic web-sites. It needs to be called out, and the original author identified - if anyone is going to cite Massimo Introvigne, then they need to accept what comes with that, much as anyone who cites some of the weirder protestant sects must do the same.

[65] Posted by MichaelA on 6-29-2010 at 06:20 PM · [top]

Exactly, Katherine.
I just looked up the Belgian bishop who resigned after admitting sexual abuse, Bishop Vangheluwe. Archbishop Leonard of Brussels accepted his resignation, saying that “it is vital that, out of respect for the victim and his family, and out of respect for the truth, he should resign from office.” He further said, “The Church thus underlines the importance of not procrastinating in such cases.” The prompt action, he said, shows that “the Catholic Church in Belgium rigorously wishes to apply in these matters, turning a new page with respect to the not-so-distant period in which the Church, and others, preferred the solution of silence or concealment.” Tghis is to Archbishop Leonard’s credit.

[66] Posted by Nellie on 6-29-2010 at 06:40 PM · [top]

MichaelA, as a professor directing graduate work, I would not want my students to rely on Massimo Introvigne, either, but I see little wrong with his use of statistics in the article cited, other than that of your complaint (I accept that the issue whether Protestants have more sexual abuse cases is undocumented).  I recognize controversial aspects of his many writings, but some have been acclaimed.  I was sorry you were so averse to the source and would have used a more scholarly one if I had taken more time.  I will say no more to go further off-topic but do not think the wholesale dismissal is warranted, especially in light of my apology to you about the source.

[67] Posted by Paula on 6-29-2010 at 08:13 PM · [top]

MichaelA and others-
While I think you have some valid points about extrapolation of statistics, we do need to remember the scale of things.  I am just appalled when I read the HoBD listserve taking the Roman Church to task over this- their heads really are in the sand.  What they don’t seem to understand is that the Roman Church is 700 TIMES larger than TEC.  I’m working from memory here, but I seem to recall 3 or 4 TEC related sex abuse cases (or 3 or 4 reported perpetrators, possibly many more victims) reported here on Stand Firm in the last year or so (curate here, choir director there).  That would equate to 2100-2800 similar abuse cases in the Roman Church.  Now, I’m going out on a limb here, but given the press scrutiny, I suspect that if there had been 2800 NEW accused sex abusers in the Roman Church in the last year, we would have heard about that in BIG HEADLINES.  But 4 in TEC don’t make headlines, even though it is the same, by percentage.

[68] Posted by tjmcmahon on 6-29-2010 at 08:28 PM · [top]


Just to clarify, it was not my intention to engage in wholesale dismissal, that is, I did not intend to take issue with any of the other points you made from the article, only the one I mentioned. I apologise if I gave a different impression.

I only focussed on this because it has come up a number of times before in other contexts (which I appreciate is not your problem). I am gratified by the way the issue has been dealt with, by yourself and others.

[69] Posted by MichaelA on 6-29-2010 at 10:36 PM · [top]

I think that the thing to remember is that when something happens in TEC or in a Lutheran or Baptist church, the abuse is in one parish, and maybe the parish or the diocese covers it up to avoid lawsuits and scandal; the thing with the RC Church is that the coverup is on such a grand, institutional scale, and goes all the way to the top, due to the structure of the Roman church. The structure of the church allows bishops to re-assign the abusers to other parishes or even send them to other countries, which has been done; also, there is much more central authority int he Roman church to which individual dioceses are answerable.

[70] Posted by Nellie on 6-29-2010 at 10:57 PM · [top]

Here’s some more news on the Belgian bishops. Apparently a member of the Church’s own commission, a child psychiatrist, implicated Archbishop Danneels; police expected to find documents relating to the abuse when they raided his home. Some of what they found included ” confidential court documents related to the infamous case of electrician Marc Dutroux, who kidnapped, raped and murdered several young girls in the late 1990s.
Het Laaste Niews reports that dozens of photographs of the victims’ corpses and the ruins of the cells where they were imprisoned, as well as magistrates’ reports, were found among Danneels’s files.” They don’t know what he was doing weith his stuff, or why he had it. It should not have left police custody. I got this story from, among other places,, a pro-life site that is far from anti-Catholic. It is very even-handed and has good things to say about good things the Church and bishops do.
Also on this site, and from other pklaces, I learned of the scandal of the Belgian catechism which has been in use for some time.  Here is a summary of the problem:  “On June 24, the very day police were raiding the offices of the Archdiocese of Brussels and the home of Cardinal Godfreed Danneels, an article appeared in the Brussels Journal detailing the cardinal’s opposition to efforts to stop the catechism that had been written and approved by Belgian Catholic authorities.
Alexandra Colen, a Catholic member of the Belgian parliament, wrote that because of this ‘perverted little catechism, hundreds of children who were not raped physically were molested spiritually during the catechism lessons.’” I won’t describe the hideous stuff in the catechism here; it’s graphic and disturbing. Go to LifeSiteNewes to see it.<a ></a> (Probably did that wrong again! shut eye )

[71] Posted by Nellie on 7-10-2010 at 07:28 AM · [top]

#71, These really are stunning details.  As to the “sex catechism,” it seems to me that some of this kind of educational child abuse—and it IS child abuse—is occurring, too, in secular schools with increasingly lurid “sex education” programs.  But in this case it is blasphemous as well as generally depraved.  Thanks for providing this link about the Belgian situation.

[72] Posted by Paula on 7-10-2010 at 11:42 AM · [top]

Your welcome! what you say is quite true - the stuff that passes for sex ed in schools is bad, as is the fact that many allow Planned Parenthood into schools to “educate” kids. But this catechism thing is indeed worse because it’s blasphemous - being done in Catholic schools where parents actually think their kids are going to be taught Catholic teaching. The stuff in the catechism is really sick - perverted.

[73] Posted by Nellie on 7-10-2010 at 03:19 PM · [top]

Perhaps someone who reads French can glean more from this article in a Belgian/French paper:

There seem to be layers that need peeling back to get an accurate picture of what the Belgian police are really after and who in the Church there actually did what.
None of this, of course, is to contradict the opinion that the facts about the so-called ‘catechism’ book reported in the article from #71 are sick and depraved; they surely are.

[74] Posted by TACit on 7-11-2010 at 05:44 PM · [top]

According to the article you cited, #74, in April 2004 the editors of The Sprout, and English magazine primarily for expatriates in Belgium, were given copies of 3 DVD’s by Belgian court reporters. The DVD’s contained the entire file on Marc Dutroux and his associates, who were accused of killing 2 little girls, Julie and Melissa. The magazine sent the autopsy photos to Danneels to get a reaction from him because they hoped to show that he and 11 other Belgian notables could have killed the girls. (My comment: note the “could have.”)The magazine published the photos as “proof” of a made-up story that the girls were killed not in Dutroux’s cellar, but in the course of the filming of a “snuff movie” in which the mayor and Danneels participated. The magazine’s entire run was seized by authorities after jsut 5 hours. The story has since been said to be untrue. The magazine had also sent photos to the Vatican, which sent them back to Danneels, where they apparently disappeared in his archives before they were found by investigators.
My comment: I don’t know how accurate any of this is, or whether there was any reason for the magazine to suspect Danneels, or whether anything was actually disproved or just said to be false. Also, one still wonders why the photos were in Danneels’ archives.

[75] Posted by Nellie on 7-11-2010 at 07:08 PM · [top]

By the way,I think, TACit, as you do, that there are definitely layers still to be peeled back here before we know the whole truth. Who knows how much accuracy there is in the cited article, and who knows what we still don’t know? I don’t suppose the police are about to let any more stuff out; they must have been very unhappy with that English magazine backi in 2004, and probably weren’t too happy wiht the Belgian journalists, either.

[76] Posted by Nellie on 7-11-2010 at 07:20 PM · [top]

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