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Church panel resigns to protest raid

By the CNN Wire Staff
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Church commission that helps sex abuse victims resigns en masse, official says
  • Police raided Catholic Church headquarters in Belgium last week
  • They were looking for documents related to child abuse charges, prosecutor says
  • Bishops, other church employees detained for 9 hours, church spokesman says

(CNN) -- Members of a Belgian church commission that helps sexual abuse victims have resigned to protest a raid on the Catholic Church headquarters in Belgium, a spokesman for the Mechelen-Brussels Archdiocese said Monday.

The church commission members resigned en masse, said the spokesman, the Rev. Eric De Beukelaer. The commission worked with people who have been abused by clergy members.

They resigned to protest a police raid last week that Pope Benedict XVI has criticized as "deplorable." Police were searching for documents related to allegations of child abuse, a spokesman for the Brussels prosecutor has said.

De Beukelaer said the church regrets the resignations. He also reiterated the Catholic Church's criticisms of the raids.

"We regret (the resignations) very much because of the victims," he said, "and we also question why this search was done on such a huge scale, so out of proportion.

"They searched even in the cathedral and bored a small hole into the tomb of a deceased cardinal," he said. "Do they really expect to find documents in there?"

Investigators seized archdiocese archives covering 25 years as well as personal computers and other personal possessions, said Fernand Keuleneer, a lawyer for the archdiocese.

Police raided the private residence of former Archbishop Godfried Daniels and the headquarters of the Catholic Church in Belgium, where a meeting of bishops happened to be taking place.

They detained the bishops and other church employees -- even the cook -- for about nine hours, De Beukelaer said. Investigators also seized personal possessions and have not yet returned them, he said.

The Vatican criticized the raids but reaffirmed its "strong condemnation of any sinful and criminal abuse of minors by members of the church." It cited "the need to repair and confront such acts in conformity with the law and teachings of the Gospels."

The Catholic Church has faced allegations that clergy members abused children in at least half a dozen countries, including the pope's native Germany, as well as Belgium, Ireland, Austria, the Netherlands and the United States.