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Belgium abuse commission resigns‎
Panel probing clerical sex abuse claims resigns over police raid on church offices.
Last Modified: 29 Jun 2010 20:07 GMT
The raids were prompted by new claims of child abuse by members of the Catholic church in Belgium [EPA]

A Roman Catholic panel investigating the alleged sexual abuse of children by priests in Belgium is to shut down in protest against a police raid on its church offices last week.

Peter Adriaenssens, a child psychiatrist who chaired the panel, said Belgian authorities had betrayed the trust of nearly 500 victims who had made complaints over the past two months to the church panel.

Andriaenssens, who announced on Thursday that police had seized hundreds of files and claimed a breach of confidentiality, said the commission had been used as "bait". 

"We are pulling out. The debate must now take place between victims, political leaders, the judiciary, the church and public opinion," he said.

'Trust broken'

Following a meeting of the commission on Monday, Karlijn Demasure, a member of the body and a theology professor at the Roman Catholic Saint Paul University of Ottawa, said: "The entire committee is going to resign." 

Demasure said that "trust between victims and the  commission" and between "the commission and the judicial authorities" was now "broken" and that it was no longer possible to go on.

He said that Andriaenssens had stood down in the morning, and that the rest of the panel decided to follow suit, with the decision effective as of this Thursday, July 1.

The commission 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 and boys 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.

'Independent' order

Stefaan De Clerck, Belgium's outgoing justice minister, expressed disappointment at the commission's decision but stressed in a statement that the raids "were ordered by an investigating magistrate acting in full independence".

He said it was "crucial that due care be given to the victims," adding that he was striving to ensure full co-operation across Belgium's autonomous political systems in Flanders and Wallonia.

De Clerck said urgent talks were being convened to look into "the difficulties resulting from the treatment by the judicial system of facts brought to its knowledge by the Catholic church commission".

Thursday's raids were prompted by new claims of child abuse by members of the Catholic church in Belgium, one of the countries worst hit by recent revelations of paedophilia by priests in Europe and North America.

Authorities seized church documents and computers, detained bishops and even opened up a prelate's crypt on June 24.

Papal anger

On Sunday, Pope Benedict XVI denounced the raids as "deplorable" and said such an intrusion into church affairs was unprecedented even under communism.

It was his first public comment on the deepening diplomatic rift between Belgium and the Vatican over the raids.

The Belgian church was rocked by the April 24 resignation of its longest-serving bishop, Roger Vangheluwe, who stepped down after admitting that he had sexually abused a young boy.

The revelation came as hundreds of cases of abuse were being reported across Europe, South America and elsewhere, exposing cover-ups by bishops and evidence of long-standing Vatican inaction to stop it.

Source:
Agencies
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