Following a series of police raids, the head of a Belgian commission which investigates claims of sexual abuse by Catholic priests has resigned.
Peter Adriaenssens has quit immediately, whilst the rest of the commission will stand down on Thursday.
A spokesman for the commission said:
“The commission finds itself in a position where it is now impossible to work. All its files have been confiscated. The members always tried to protect the victims’ rights. Without trust in this commission, 475 people would never have released their information.”
Acting on complaints of abuse, last week police seized 500 case files belonging to the commission. On the same day, church offices were sealed off and searched. Authorities drilled into the tombs belonging to two cardinals.
The home of a recently retired Archbishop of Belgium was also under scrutiny – with police taking away his laptop.
The Vatican is angry about the way bishops were treated during the raids and the violation of the tombs. In a letter on his website, the Pope refers to ‘surprising and regrettable’ methods used by the police.
Belgium has a strong Catholic tradition, however, mass attendance has fallen dramatically in recent years to as little as five per cent.