In a sign that tensions are still rising in Europe over the Catholic sex abuse scandal, Pope Benedict XVI on Sunday criticized the Belgian authorities for what he called "deplorable" raids on church property. Seeking evidence of sexual abuse by priests, last week Belgian police detained bishops, confiscated files compiled by a church committee investigating abuse claims, and opened the tomb of a cardinal in a cathedral north of Brussels. Was Benedict right to stand up for the Belgian clergy, or was he sending the message that the victims aren't his first concern? (Watch a report about the Pope's comments)
The Pope has no grounds on which to complain about this: It's understandable that Benedict would be "disturbed" by these raids, says Rod Dreher in BeliefNet, but it's also abundantly clear that the pope has no "moral ground" to stand on. "Given the record of the Church in these grave criminal matters, it takes a lot of chutzpah for the Holy Father to assert the Church's 'autonomy' to investigate itself."
"Pope wrong to denounce Belgium raid"
But the Belgian police went too far with these raids: Pope Benedict isn't saying the police don't have the right to investigate, says Bryan Cones at U.S. Catholic. But their actions in this instance were "a bit extreme." The committee raided by the Belgian authorities was set up purposefully "to investigate and resolve outstanding claims of sex abuse." Unless the police had "evidence of ongoing criminal activity" they should not have treated the church so roughly.
"Pope responds to raid on Belgium's sex abuse commission"
The Vatican doesn't understand the limits of its authority: "I'm a big fan of Pope Benedict," says Greg Griffith at Stand Firm in Faith. For the most part, his "response to the priest-abuse scandal" has been "welcome." But this outburst was short-sighted. Evidently, the Vatican still doesn't grasp that while God may be "outside the grasp of earthly authorities," the same is not true of the "evil perpetrated by their clerics."
"Pope: Belgian sex abuse raids deplorable"
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