Tuesday 23 May 2017

Vatican fury at raid on tombs

Anger as Belgian police open the graves of two archbishops in sex abuse probe

Alessandra Rizzo in Vatican City

THE Vatican said last night it was astonished and outraged that Belgian police investigating sex abuse had conducted raids that also targeted the graves of two archbishops.

The Vatican summoned the Belgian ambassador to the Holy See to express its outrage over the raids, which also included the home and offices of a recently-retired cardinal.

In a statement, the Vatican said any criminal abuse of minors by members of the church must be condemned, and it repeated that there is a need for justice and amends.

But it added, "The Secretariat of State also expresses astonishment at the way in which the search took place." It expressed "outrage over the violation of the tombs".

On Thursday, police raided the home and former office of former Cardinal Godfried Danneels, taking documents and Danneels's personal computer. Police and prosecutors did not say if Danneels was suspected of abuse himself, or simply had records pertaining to allegations against another person. He was not questioned.

However, what infuriated the Vatican was the fact that investigators also opened the graves of archbishops in the St Rombouts Cathedral in Mechlin, north of Brussels, looking for possibly incriminating documents, said Jean-Marc Meilleur, spokesman for the Brussels public prosecutor.

Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, Belgium's current archbishop, condemned the search of the cathedral, saying that is stuff for "crime novels and 'The Da Vinci Code'".

Separately, police seized the records of an independent panel investigating sexual abuse by priests, some 500 cases in all.

This also drew the condemnation of the Vatican, which said it regretted the violation of the confidentiality due the victims of child abuse.

The Brussels prosecutor's office said the raids followed recent statements to police related to the sexual abuse of children within the church.

In a separate development yesterday, it emerged that the Vatican is asking a federal judge to reject an attempt to question Pope Benedict XVI under oath in a Kentucky sex-abuse lawsuit. The church is claiming that there is no evidence of a link to the hierarchies in Rome.

Deposition

The arguments filed this week in a US District Court in Louisville also say that forcing Pope Benedict, a head of state, to give a deposition would violate international law.

The lawsuit accuses the Vatican, referred to in papers as 'the Holy See', of orchestrating a cover-up of priests sexually abusing children throughout the US. Louisville lawyer William McMurry asked to depose Pope Benedict and other Vatican officials in a motion in March and the filing on Thursday is a response.

McMurry has also asked that the Vatican turn over administrative documents and respond to questions relating to the abuse scandal in the US.

Lawyers for the Vatican argue that thousands of documents provided in a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Louisville several years ago have turned up no connection to Rome.

The Louisville archdiocese reached a settlement in 2003 with more than 240 abuse victims, represented by McMurry, for $25 million (€20.2m).

Irish Independent

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