Last week's search by the Belgian police, deemed "Operation Church," was "worthy of the Da Vinci Code," Archbishop Andre-Joseph Leonard told reporters away from the microphone at a press conference on Saturday. In the latest development, the archdiocesan commission to investigate cases of abuse and provide care for victims was dissolved on June 28.
Following the June 24 search of the crypts in the Cathedral of Mechelen and lockdown of the offices for the Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels, members of the Church have decried the actions taken by the Belgian judicial system as an overreaction.
Archbishop Leonard said on Saturday that the authorities had the right to search the premises, but he found it "a little amazing" that tombs were also searched and that Belgium's nine bishops were not allowed to leave their meeting room all day.
After the police were reportedly drilled holes in the tombs, cameras were inserted through them to continue the search for "hidden" dossiers on sexual abuse by priests.
Even the Pope commented in a message to Archbishop Leonard on the "surprising and deplorable manner" in which the search was carried out.
A note in the weekly editorial from the Italian bishops' SIR news agency labeled the event as "very grave" and possessing elements of "the incredible."
The editorial cast doubt on the reasons for the search, contemplating whether or not the search was actually carried out to provide a service to the victims or, rather, if its scope was focused more on spearheading a propaganda campaign against the Church.
The route, they reported, is "delicate," and "the Church doesn't want, nor does it request privileges; it has entered with great transparency the line of purification but, at the same time, neither instrumentalizations nor ideological or propagandistic shortcuts or even abitrary generalizations can be tolerated."
Catholic apologist and Corriere della Sera columnist Vittorio Messori called the search an "exaggeration" by the Belgian justice system, comparing it, as Archbishop Leonard did, to a Da Vinci Code plot or a new type of a sarcastic joke being told by judges who are "obsessed by enigmas, mysteries and secret codes" that always involve Catholics and can only be understood by them.
Poking fun at the idea that a dossier might be hidden in the tombs of the cardinal archbishops of the Cathedral of Mechelen, he wrote, "aside from the bitter punchlines, sexual abuses are too big of a case to be left to similar investigators."
Such operations, Messori continued, "confirm the confusion of a State that for years has not been able to even proclaim a government but, at least among the 'intelligencia,' it seems united only by an anti-Roman aversion."
On Monday, child psychiatrist Dr. Peter Adriaenssens, the director of the commission the local Catholic Church established to investigate and offer pastoral care to those victims, resigned as a result of the commission's materials being confiscated.
He told local media upon stepping down that he felt that he and the commission, which was disbanded, "have been used as bait" by Belgian judicial and police authorities.
Dr. Adriaenssens also faulted the authorities for betraying the trust of nearly 500 victims who had confidentially made complaints over the past two months to the commission and blamed state prosecutors for questioning victims too traumatized to speak to the police.