WorldWide Religious News

Europe - Belgium/Holland - Christianity - Catholic

Belgian files complaint over church sex abuse raid
Robert Wielaard (AP, June 29, 2010)

Brussels, Belgium - A Belgian man who says he was sexually abused by a priest filed a complaint with Brussels prosecutors Tuesday after his confidential testimony to a church-appointed panel was seized by Belgian police.

Jan Hertogen, a 63-year-old sociologist, said he told his story to the panel on the condition it would not be passed to authorities. He said the police raids - which also targeted a Catholic cathedral, church offices and a crypt - were an invasion of his privacy.

"After all those years, I told my story to the (sex-abuse panel) insisting it not be shared," he said, adding that he was now willing to speak to the media because he was so distressed at the victims' loss of privacy.

Hertogen wants all 475 men and boys who contacted the panel with allegations of abuse to complain to the Brussels prosecutor's office and register as "injured parties."

That would allow alleged victims access to information about any prosecutions resulting from the June 24 raids, which sparked a storm of protest by the Vatican after files were confiscated, bishops detained and holes drilled into a prelate's tomb to search for documents.

The Belgian police are investigating clerical sexual abuse after the country's longest serving bishop stepped down in April, confessing he had sexually molested a boy. Several other men and boys had said they had previously told Cardinal Godfried Danneels, who retired in January, about abuse but their complaints had not been investigated.

His home was among the targets of the raids.

The Catholic Church says it had the right to investigate allegations alongside police and the head of the panel accused prosecutors of using them as "bait" to lure frightened victims into the open. Pope Benedict XVI called the raids "deplorable."

But in a sign the row may be abating, Belgian officials will meet a papal envoy within days to discuss the raids, said foreign ministry spokesman Bart Ouvry. He did not give a date for the meeting between Archbishop Giacinto Berloco and Foreign Minister Steven Vanackere.