Following unannounced police raids in the Archdiocese of Belgium last week, a former head of an internal Church commission on sexual abuse cases has revealed that she contacted local police after an anonymous caller advised her to “watch out” and to secure all the documents she held during her time in office.
On June 24, Belgian authorities in search of information associated with cases of sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Mechelen-Brussels entered the archbishop's offices unannounced. Elements of the search, which included drilling holes into tombs in the crypt of the cathedral, were denounced by the Vatican and Pope Benedict the next day.
Godelieve Halsberghe, president of an internal Church commission on sex abuse cases from 2000 to 2008, told the Flemish newspaper Het Nieuwesblad on Monday that “I recently received an unpleasant phone call about these files (dossiers on sexual abuse cases).”
Halsberghe, a former magistrate who headed a panel set up by the Church to oversee sex abuse cases, reportedly resigned in 2008 due to her belief that the bishops involved were being uncooperative.
She told the Het Nieuwesblad that the caller was a man who spoke to her in French and did not identify himself.
“He asked if I have dealt with these files. I answered affirmatively. He then told me that I had better watch out; not only in the interest of the files, but also for myself,” Halsberghe added.
The paper also asked if Halsberghe influenced the police's decision to drill into the tombs of the deceased cardinals in the crypt at the Mechelen Cathedral. “Did they (the police) ever hear about secret places in the crypt where sensitive files were hidden?” it asked.
“I have heard about something in the past, but don't ask where exactly. I do not know if the crypt was specifically mentioned,” she answered.
Searching for dossiers on cases of pedophilia last week, the Belgian police went so far as to drill holes into the tombs of Cardinals Jozef-Ernest Van Roey and Leon-Josephy Suenens with pneumatic hammers.
The Belgian police also prevented bishops and others in a meeting at the archdiocesan offices from leaving the meeting room for nine hours.
Several Vatican officials have decried the police actions, with Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone saying on June 26 that the raids had “no precedents even in communist regimes.”
The police raid also caused Dr. Peter Adriaenssens, the current sexual abuse commissioner, to resign from his post, accusing the police of “using us as bait” and undermining the commission's credibility by confiscating testimony that was given confidentially.