Among the many events surrounding the police raid on the offices of the Mechelen cathedral, I found the violation of the tombs of Cardinals Suenens and Van Roey particularly telling. According to the AFP report:
The Brussels prosecutor’s office admitted that a crypt was searched during a police search of the Mechelen cathedral near Brussels on Thursday…
Earlier Father Eric De Beukelaer, spokesman for the Mechelen-Brussels archbishop, said that “the tombs of Cardinals Suenens and Van Roey were drilled and a camera pushed in, apparently to see whether there were any hidden documents” linked to the paedophilia claims concerning Catholic clergy.
If the motive given for rifling the Cardinals’ tombs was sincere, and the search wasn’t simply calculated to demoralize the Belgian hierarchy, then the story at least has its comical side. It’s almost as if the Belgian police force spent days poring over Catholic methods of obstructing justice—but using Dan Brown novels as textbooks. Somehow Belgian investigators were prepared to imagine that, rather than simply burn or shred incriminating files dating back to the reigns of Suenens and Van Roey, the bureaucrats of the Belgian chancery would more likely bury them in crypts. Method two is just so much more ceremonial, conspiratorial and, well, “Catholic”.
Questions naturally arise. Did they, I wonder, expect their cameras to reveal manila envelopes—helpfully stamped CONFIDENTIALIS—clutched between skeletal fingers? Maybe a canister of microfilm perched atop a crosier? Or maybe they expected to find no remains at all, but an empty tomb. Perhaps this would have finally proved that Cardinal Suenens had faked his own death so as to smuggle the secret documents down to his retirement home on Grand Cayman.
Well, maybe that last one is a little far fetched. The Belgians are perhaps prepared to believe many things, but they don’t seem much impressed nowadays with the evidences of empty tombs.