DIY Catholicism, Europe: Breakaway Parishes in Belgium, Netherlands – Catholic, Not Roman

The Catholic Church in Belgium strikes me in some respects as a microcosm of the state of the Church in the rest of the developed world (Africa excepted).

In this nominally Catholic country, ordinary people have been turning away from formal religious observance in their droves; the clergy have been collectively tarnished by the clerical abuse problems, which culminated earlier this year in the resignation of a senior bishop; the public has been angered by the inaction and excuses of the bishops in response; churches are being closed for lack of clergy; and the main remedy of the Vatican has been to put in charge a grossly insensitive conservative, Archbishop André-Joseph Léonard of Mechelen-Brussels.   At a recent public meeting, one Belgian was so incensed by this man that he threw a pie in his face. More ominously for the Church as a whole, a small but growing band of Belgian Catholics, like their neighbours in the Netherlands, are simply going their own way. They are doing it themselves, practising their faith without depending on the benefits of ordained clergy – “benefits”, which in their eyes are distinctly dubious.

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New twist in Belgian Catholic abuse legal row

After the Belgian police controversially raided the bishops’ offices and Cardinal Daneels’ home, confiscating truckloads of material relating to allegations of church sexual abuse, two lower courts ruled that the raid had been inaoppropriate, and ordered that the material would be inadmissable as evidence. However, this is not over yet.  “Expatica” yesterday reported from Belgium that there has been a

New twist in Belgian Catholic abuse legal row

BRUSSELS: Belgium’s highest court ordered magistrates on Tuesday to re-examine evidence seized by police relating to decades of child abuse and alleged Roman Catholic Church cover-ups.

The court overturned two previous decisions by lower courts that rendered inadmissible evidence taken from church headquarters, the home of a former archbishop and a church-backed commission investigating sex crimes perpetrated by priests.

Responding to lawyers acting for alleged victims who lodged appeals, the judges said the lower courts were wrong not to hear civil parties and therefore magistrates should look again at the evidence in a new light.

It means that truckloads of material gathered by police in spectacular raids in June that drew the ire of Pope Benedict XVI himself could potentially be used to relaunch state prosecutions for abuse.

However, it does not automatically mean a prosecution case will be launched, because the lower judges could reach the same decisions as before, saying they have done so this time while considering aggrieved parties’ accusations.The raids on June 24, conducted as a Vatican ambassador was meeting with church leaders, opened the eyes of the world to the scale of the scandal within the Belgian Catholic Church, but the church and retired archbishop, Cardinal Godfried Danneels, asked that the material seized be declared out of bounds.

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Child psychologist Peter Adriaenssens then unleashed nationwide controversy with the release on September 10 of a report by a commission he led which revealed nearly 500 people reported abuses by priests since the 1950s and 13 victims committed suicide.

Adriaenssens subsequently called on the pope to resign.

Background to the “War on the Church” in Belgium.

Monseigneur Rauber, Cardinal Danneels, Monseig...

MONSEIGNEUR RAUBER, CARDINAL DANNEELS, MONSEIGNEUR VANGHELUWE AND MONSEIGNEUR JOZEF DE KESEL

The Vatican, and many Catholic apologists around the world, have reacted with shock and anger to the Belgian police raids on the bishops’ headquarters and the residences of leading churchmen. Two useful background pieces at NCR offer some  perspective on why, in a supposedly strongly Catholic country, the authorities should have acted so forcefully against the Church.

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Belgium: Does Abuse Cover-Up Continue?

One of the repeated claims made by Church authorities to counter the outcry over abuse, is that while they acknowledge past mistakes, these are indeed all in the past, that procedures have been mended, and that in the church as it is now, all is well. Belgian police are not convinced, and have raided the offices of the Bishops’ headquarters, the Archbishop’s palace, and the home of the Belgian Cardinal Godfried Danneels, confiscating computer files and documents relating to ongoing investigations of abuse.

Monsignor Giacinto Berloco, papal nuncio to Belgium and Luxembourg, speaks to police during a raid on the offices of the country’s most senior Catholic prelate. Photograph: Matthew Busch/AP

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