Bishop of Belgium's Diocese of Tournai, Guy Harpigny, made a statement on Thursday expressing the regret of Belgian bishops at the way the search of the archbishop's offices was carried out last week. He hoped for further dialogue with authorities to search for possibilities to carry on the work of assisting victims while ensuring that their privacy is protected.
Bishop Harpigny is the episcopal delegate for relations with the commission in charge of dealing with cases of sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels.
As long as searches by judicial authorities take place within the prescribed legal framework and are based on "legitimate and specific" indices and use proportionate instruments, he said in a note released by the Belgian Bishops' Conference, the bishops are not against the searches such as the one that took place on June 24.
However, he continued, the bishops "regret" the way the search was carried out within the commission which handled cases of sexual abuse in the archdiocese. "It's clear," Bishop Harpigny explained, that the confiscation of victims' records disrupted "the possibility for the commission to continue its delicate, but healing mission."
Every member of the commission, led by psychiatrist Peter Adriaenssens, stepped down this week after Belgian authorities took all 475 dossiers regarding victims with them after the search of the archbishop's offices.
Bishop Harpigny related the hopes of Belgium's bishops that a "constructive dialogue" with authorities would be forthcoming in order to examine the possibility of continuing the commission's objectives "in one form or another, without risking that the victims' confidence again be undermined."
He thanked the disbanded commission in the communiquefor their "prompt and good" work, while also expressing "sadness" and "comprehension and respect" for the commission members' decision to resign.
The bishop underscored his "respect and sympathy to all persons that had found the courage to confide their injuries" in contacting the commmission, adding that "we are sincerely displeased that the current situation impedes their path from moving ahead."
The message was co-signed by Bishop of Antwerp, Johan Jozef Bonny.
Also making a statement was Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard, who reflected on the encounter with the Holy Father on Wednesday. He explained that the Pope met with him out of interest for the situation and to receive information on the searches from a primary source.
During the 20-minute visit, he said he was "touched by the solicitude and the attention of Benedict XVI" while they talked about how the searches were carried out and how things had continued to develop after the fact.
"I found him remarkably well informed," commented Archbishop Leonard, who added that "the Pope assured the bishops of Belgian of his support and his closeness in these delicate moments."