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Belgian Police Grill Cardinal Danneels on Sex-Abuse Cases

CatholicCulture.Org July 07, 2010

Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels was questioned by police for 10 hours on July 6, and emerged visibly shaken by the interrogation.

A spokesman for prosecutors said that the retired Archbishop of Brussels was asked about “at least 50” cases in which he was aware of the sexual abuse of children but did not report to authorities. The spokesman said that the cardinal was treated as a witness rather than a suspect, but added that could change.

Peter Adriaenssens, the chairman of an independent commission chartered by the Belgian bishops to investigate sex-abuse claims, reported that Cardinal Danneels was “clearly in a state of shock” after the questioning, which followed the surprise police raid on the headquarters of the Belgian hierarchy and the cardinal’s residence. “It is very difficult for him to know that good number of people thought that he knew and did nothing,” he said. The Adriaenssens committee resigned after the police raid, in which all of the committee’s files were confiscated.

The Belgian newspaper Het Laatse Nieuws added a sensational new element to the story with a report that police had found in the bishops’ files some material relating to Marc Dutroux, a notorious criminal who was convicted in 2004 for abducting, molesting, and murdering several children. The Belgian bishops’ conference said that the report—which prosecutors refused to confirm or deny—appeared to refer to a set of CD-ROMs about the Dutroux case that had been sent to the bishops as well as to leading politicians and journalists all over Belgium. The bishops’ conference added a protest that material from a secret police investigation had found its way into the press.


Belgian Bishops Appeal for Calm and Justice to Do its Work

Vatican Radio, 7 July 2010

(07 Jul 10 – RV) The Bishop’s of Belgium, held a press conference Wednesday to respond to certain newspaper reports regarding the discovery of files relating to child sex abuse in a police raid on the Archdiocese of Malines-Brussels last June 24th.

The bishops state that the files in questions are two CD ROMS relating to the Dutroux case, known as" the monster of Marcinelle”. They add the files were sent by a third party not only to the bishops but also to court journalists covering the case at the time, as well as public officials and politicians.

The bishops express their astonishment at the press describing this as an exceptional discovery, given that the material was in the public sphere.

The spokesman for the Belgium Bishops Conference is Eric de Beukelaer:

“We wanted to address the press today because we really feel that justice has to do its work. That’s what the bishops want. We need serenity and this kind of wild information is insane because it gives the impression of a very dramatic atmosphere with plots all around. What has indeed been found was a small information file which was given a few years ago to the many journalists, also politicians and also Msgr. Leonard, who was in those days the bishop of Namur. There were disks as well with pictures of the Dutroux affair. Most of the journalists who received this information knew that it wasn’t very serious. So after Msgr. Leonard realised that was the case he reported it to the Commission into sex abuse and the chairman of that commission made sure that was the case. And that was the file that was found during the police raids, but it surely wasn’t a big dramatic information which reached the newspapers”.

Here is the previous Cathobel statement in a Vatican Radio translation: “In merit of reports published in the Belgian newspaper " Het Laatste Nieuws” regarding the discovery of material relating to the Dutroux case, known as" the monster of Marcinelle ", among the documents seized last June 24 at the residence of the Archbishop of Malines, the press office of the Belgian bishops “Cathobel” has expressed its astonishment, in so far as it does not know on what elements this information is based.

The archdiocesan attorney, Fernand Keuleneer, has placed a request for clarification with the court. In particular : if the information published by " Het Laatste Nieuws " came from the investigators, and if the answer is yes, why it was made public, if they are correct and, in this case, whether the documents in question were actually found in the archives, since the archbishop has not yet received an inventory of documents held by court officials.

The Archbishop also asks to know the identity of the person to which these documents refer and know how they were found. So far, the archdiocese has not received any response to this letter.

"Following an internal inquiry - the note ascertains - no paper files were found, but two CD-ROMs sent by a third party well known both to the press and the Archbishop’s offices”. "These CD-ROM – the note continues - were also sent during the Dutroux case, to court reporters, politicians and other national personalities. It is therefore not an 'exceptional discovery".

Thus, the Belgian bishops insist that "it would be very regrettable if the information covered by professional secrecy and the investigation had been voluntarily released to the press by people involved in the investigation, in order to provoke sensational reactions. Finally, the Belgian Bishops' Conference expresses the desire "to cooperate properly with the law" and their hope to "collaborate in response to questions from investigators, rather than reacting to press articles".