Last week, a conflict between the Vatican and Belgian authorities over the handling of abuse cases within the Roman Catholic church came to head. The Catholic church had been dealing with abuse cases through an internal commission until Belgian authorities—no strangers to brutal pedophilia cases—raided a meeting of bishops to secure evidence. There were reports that some clergymen were detained for many hours. Vatican officials protested the Belgian authorities, claiming that the way in which they dealt with church officials were “unprecedented even under communism.”
The controversy shows how church–state relations are shifting in light of the abuse scandals within the Catholic church. The Catholic church, long afforded the benefit of hands-off state authorities, is no longer a privileged institution. In La Croix, Isabelle de Gaulmyn writes that the credibility of the church as an institution assuming public responsibilities is in shambles. Whether or not its credibility is ruined for good remains to be seen, however:
As a Belgian Catholic official confided this weekend, it will depend on the ability of the Catholic Church to find a new way to position itself in society, less arrogantly than in the now-past golden age, less overbearing and more open to debate. He added: “It may be an opportunity.”
Read her full analysis here (in French).