Vatican Faces Civil Challenges

Pope Benedict XVI and his key advisers are facing a long, hot summer of problem-solving and strategizing. A raid by Belgian police on the archdiocesan headquarters and residences near Brussels on June 24 left Vatican officials stunned and illustrated just how much the sexual abuse crisis has lowered the church’s standing in the eyes of some civil authorities. The country’s bishops were held for nine hours as police confiscated files, computers and cell phones. The ultimate affront came when the police drilled into the tombs of two dead cardinals and inserted cameras to look for supposed hidden documents. None were found. The police action brought sharp criticism from Pope Benedict, who was careful, however, to defend the right of civil authorities to investigate priestly sex abuse. Four days later, the U.S. Supreme Court let stand a lower court ruling in Oregon that said the Vatican did not have immunity from potential liability for the actions of a priest accused of sexual abuse.

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