Sunday, 27 June 2010


I have been away from home for a few days, so am coming to this story late. It is the story of the interrogation of members of the Belgian conference of Catholic Bishops and their staff by the police of that country.

The Vatican communique on the matter is here, being mainly made up of the text of a statement by the spokesman of the Belgian Bishops conference. I quote the section that appears to have been added to that statement by the Vatican Secretariat of State (further reporting from the BBC is here):
In publishing this statement, the Secretariat of State reiterates its firm condemnation of all sinful and criminal acts of abuse of minors by members of the Church, and the need to repair and face such acts in accordance with the requirements of justice and the teachings of the Gospel. It is in the light of these needs that the same Secretary of State also expresses great surprise at how some searches were conducted yesterday by the Belgian judicial authorities and its indignation at the fact that the tombs of Cardinals Jozef-Ernest Van Roey and Léon-Joseph Suenens, deceased archbishops of Malines-Brussels, were violated. Added to the dismay over those actions, is regret for some breaches of confidentiality, owed to those very victims for whom the searches were conducted.

I am not an expert in diplomatic language, but words like "great surprise", "indignation" and "dismay" appear quite strong to me.
As far as the violation of the tombs of Archbishops Van Roey and Suenens are concerned, my word would have been "outrage". I cannot think of any other circumstance in which the violation of graves, particularly those of public figures representative of a whole community, would not attract widespread condemnation.

UPDATE: Pope Benedict has written a letter of support to Archbishop Leonard and the bishops of Belgium in this situation. The text - in French - can be found here, at the Vatican website. The BBC reporting presents this letter as an upping of the Vatican's response to the police raids.

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