The frustration and embarrassment of the sexual abuse scandal that has plagued the Catholic Church added another chapter recently, this time in Belgium. The quiet European nation was rocked by news their longest standing bishop, Roger Vangheluwe, was to resign after admitting to sexually molesting a young boy. To add more burn to the Vatican's sexual abuse firestorm, Belgian authorities raided Catholic compounds last week, seizing personal computers and cell phones, detaining several bishops for upwards of nine hours, and even opening the tomb of a deceased priest.
The Vatican has been outraged by the Belgian raids, as they have resonated to the point even Pope Benedict XVI weighed in by calling them "deplorable." The Vatican stated it understood the need for justice in the sexual abuse crisis, yet maintained their right to investigate the issue alongside civil authorities. Catholic leaders also expressed anger at Belgian law enforcement for seizing the records of 500 sexual abuse claims being investigated by an independent panel, as the Vatican argued the seizure of those cases violated the privacy of the abuse victims. Though Rome has been furious with the actions of Belgium, many across the globe have been lauding their proactive approach.
"Vatican officials who criticize the Belgian police raid of the Brussels church hierarchy should be ashamed of themselves," stated Joelle Casteix of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP). "While Roman church officials talk about stopping abuse, Belgian police officials take action to stop abuse."
Oh, snap (an easy punch line, but I've been called easy, too)! So, after years of abusing innocent children and covering it up, the Catholic Church was finally bent over and violated as well, receiving a karmic dosage of their own medicine. And to think all it took was the long, girthy thrust of Belgian law. But, to be fair, the Vatican raised some points during its complaint that merit attention.
One of the points of contention was the Catholic Church's claim it was being left out of the sexual abuse investigation process. The Vatican feels as though it has a right to look into allegations alongside civil authorities, and perhaps that demand isn't too unreasonable. Catholic priests could join Belgian authorities on any raid or investigation by patting down any young child who claims to have been molested, ensuring he's not concealing a weapon. Quips about the child's only weapon being his "cuteness" will be permitted by Belgian authorities, though any innuendo about a child "packing in the pants" will result in trying to keep down one's own lunch.
The Vatican was especially enraged by the opening of a deceased priest's grave, a potentially valid point. The Catholic Church has had a longstanding policy that "necrophilia is the line." Though I cannot verify this story with certainty, I attended Catholic schools and my source tells me that priests in training are forced to repeat the phrase "necrophilia is the line" in Gregorian chant until they can resist wandering into a children's cemetery. But even if the crypt was opened to gather DNA evidence from a deceased priest, the action itself was pointless. Why get DNA from a priest's grave when you can simply get swabs of DNA from the chins of millions of children? The latter option seems a more cost-effective and sensitive way to handle the situation.
Another point of contention was the detaining of several bishops for up to nine hours. The Vatican appealed to Belgium's sensibilities, informing Belgian authorities that priests are not used to being locked up in tiny rooms with other people unless it's for confessions. To help accommodate the bishops, law enforcement agents agreed to question the bishops while on their knees. The detainment was originally planned to last only one hour but was extended when one bishop unzipped his pants and said, "Bless this mess," out of habit.
However, out of every injustice the Catholic Church suffered at the hands of Belgian law enforcement, the seizing of over 500 cases of sexual abuse inquiries enraged the Vatican the most. Rome claimed the seizure violated the privacy rights of many victims, but more importantly, it took Catholic officials decades to train those young boys to know when to open and close their mouths.
Scott Janssen is a graduate student, blogger, and all-around drain on society. Follow him at his blog at www.pantslessponderings.com