Belgian appeals court rules to let magistrate continue investigating alleged abuse by clergy

BRUSSELS (AP) — A Brussels appeals court ruled Friday to allow an investigating magistrate to continue looking into alleged sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy, in cases that came to light after police seized documents, computers and data discs from the Belgian archbishop's residence in June.

The court dismissed a church complaint claiming the police raid had been excessive. During the June 24 raid, police detained a dozen Belgian bishops and the Vatican's envoy to Belgium for eight hours in the residence in Mechlin, north of Brussels, while demanding they surrender their cell phones.

Investigators also seized 500 case files from a church-created panel looking into charges of sexual abuse by clergy and used power tools to open a prelate's crypt in Mechlin's St. Rombout Cathedral.

"The investigating magistrate can continue with his investigation," said Estelle Arpigny, a spokeswoman for the Brussels prosecutor's office.

Under Belgian law, the appeals court does not have to publish its findings about ongoing investigations. It investigating magistrate Wim DeTroy continue his work on the alleged clergy abuse cases.

The June 24 raids, code-named Operation Chalice, provoked a fierce Vatican reaction but no public outcry in a country where abuse charges have implicated senior church officials.

On April 24, Belgium's longest-serving bishop, Roger Vangheluwe, resigned, admitting to having sexually abused a nephew when he was a priest and archbishop.

His case has cast a cloud over the conduct of former Archbishop Godfried Danneels, who retired in January.