Chr18 December, 2019(Getty)

The change is significant, but we shouldn’t forget that it only downgrades the level of secrecy

By now, readers will have heard that Pope Francis has issued a rescript lifting the so-called “pontifical secret” under which the Church has until now conducted investigations and canonical trials

related to sexual abuse and cover-up, sexual violence, and other similarly grave crimes against minors and vulnerable adults.

The pontifical secret remains in force over other matters, but is no longer the default level of secrecy for sex crimes against minors and related offences.

It was one of three changes to Church law the Pope made on Tuesday. Another specifies the acquisition or possession of pornographic materials that exploit subjects under the age of 18 as a grave criminal offence for clerics of any rank. That change may have been longer in coming than observers and advocates for it would have liked, but it is the fulfilment of a promise. A third introduces the possibility for qualified lay persons to act as attorneys in canonical proceedings before the CDF tribunal, in which grave criminal charges are being tried.

Of the three changes, the removal of pontifical secret from sex crime cases involving minors is bound to generate the most discussion.

In an editorial for the Holy See’s official Vatican News outlet, editorial director Andrea Tornielli hailed the change as “a sign of openness, transparency, and the willingness to collaborate with the civil authorities.” Tornielli said, “It is not too much to define it as ‘historic’.”

It certainly was something survivors and victim-advocates felt was long overdue. Irish survivor and advocate Marie Collins hailed the development as “excellent news”. She noted that the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors had called for the change during their first term, which began in 2014. “At last,” she said, “a real and positive change.”
Anne Barrett Doyle of agreed. “I think it’s an overdue and desperately needed action,” she said. “The pontifical secret has been an obstruction to civil justice,”

Barrett added. She said the move was a strategically wise one for Pope Francis to take in the current climate. “Prosecutors have begun not only to look at the priests who abuse, but the bishops who cover up their crimes,” she noted. “Civil societies will no longer tolerate it. It’s a move he’s being compelled to make by new forces of accountability in the secular realm.”

“The [pontifical] secret,” Doyle said, “has become a legal liability.”

On that point, it’s worth considering that the removal of the secret does not so much open the archives to all comers, as make it more difficult for leaders of local Churches to use Vatican information security policy as an excuse not to cooperate with civil authorities. The veteran attorney for plaintiffs in sex abuse and cover-up cases, Mitchell Garabedian, noted that, given the subpoena power of which attorneys can avail themselves in many jurisdictions, “[T]he Pope was giving law enforcement what it could probably already obtain.”
In the same statement Garabedian also said, “The abolition of the secret rule by Pope Francis is a small step in the direction of transparency, and may help clergy sexual abuse victims try to heal.” Garabedian is an attorney who represents plaintiffs in civil cases, who ought also be able to use the change to obtain necessary documentation more easily.

The change should, at any rate, make it less likely for victims to face trouble in getting a straight answer from Church officials regarding the status of their complaints, (or even learn whether their alleged abusers had been convicted). The new law also makes it clear that Church officials cannot put gag orders on complainants, victims and witnesses.

“The person who files the report, the person who alleges to have been harmed and the witnesses,” the rescript says at Point 5, “shall not be bound by any obligation of silence with regard to matters involving the case.”

The Church’s leading sex crimes investigator, and the principal architect of Benedict XVI’s major reforms to criminal and procedural law, Archbishop Charles Scicluna of Malta, told Vatican News: “The question of transparency now is being implemented at the highest level.”

If people who heard the news that Pope Francis has abolished the pontifical secret in cases of child sexual abuse, sexual violence, and underage pornography expect the great veil of silence instantly to be lifted, however, and a perfect age of transparency to enter upon ecclesiastical affairs, they are in for a rude awakening. The removal of the pontifical secret neither creates nor heralds conditions for an information free-for-all, or anything like it.

“The fact that the knowledge of these criminal actions is no longer tied to the ‘pontifical secret’,” said the secretary of the Pontifical Council for the Interpretation of Legislative Texts, Archbishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, “does not mean that unfettered publication by those who are in possession of it is now free and clear.” He said that state of affairs would be “immoral,” and “would damage the right to good reputation of the persons protected by canon 220,” which states: “No one is permitted to harm illegitimately the good reputation which a person possesses nor to injure the right of any person to protect his or her own privacy.”

“The purpose of the new Instruction,” wrote Archbishop Arrieta, “is to remove in these cases the subjection to what is called the ‘pontifical secret’, bringing the cases back instead, under the ‘level’ of confidentiality duly required to protect the good reputation of the people involved — to the normal ‘official secret’ established by canon 471.2 (244§2, 2nd CCEO), which each pastor or public officeholder is obliged to observe in distinct ways, depending on whether they are subjects who have the right to know about such things, or whether they are rather persons not in possession of any title to have the information.” Why all the faithful and indeed the broad public do not have a right to know, at least, who has been convicted of what specific crimes, and on the basis of what evidence, is not a subject treated in Arrieta’s careful technical explainer.

Archbishop Arrieta was, however, at some pains to stress and articulate the reasons for which this new development has nothing to do with the confessional seal.

“The Instruction,” Archbishop Arrieta wrote, “has no collision whatsoever with the absolute duty to observe the sacramental seal, which is an obligation imposed on the priest by reason of the position he occupies in the administration of the sacrament of confession, and from which not even the penitent himself could free.” The secretary went on to specify: “Nor does Instruction touch the duty of strict reserve — which may be acquired even outside confession, within the whole ‘extra-sacramental’ forum.”

There, Arrieta was discussing primarily the “privileged” space of spiritual direction. He referred to the 29 June 2019 Note of the Apostolic Penitentiary on the Importance of the Internal Forum and the Inviolability of the Sacramental Seal, which states, “Thus, this particular area also demands a certain secrecy ad extra, inherent to the content of spiritual colloquies and deriving from each person’s right to the respect of his or her own privacy (cf. can. 220). Although in a merely ‘analogous’ way to what happens in the Sacrament of Confession, the spiritual director becomes aware of the individual believer’s conscience by virtue of his ‘special’ relationship with Christ, which derives from holiness of life and — if a cleric — from the received sacred order itself.”

Since the pretext of “spiritual direction” is often one used by abusive priests to groom and trap their victims, it will be interesting to see how those observations of Archbishop Arrieta are received. They could be treated as obiter dicta — learned opinion offered in passing — and more or less ignored. On the other hand, the attempt to broaden the scope of special reserve to space beyond the confessional proper could make it more difficult to defend the seal when — not if — it comes under attack.

Basically, the change to the law downgrades the level of secrecy under which Church investigations and trials are conducted from the very highest level of secrecy to the normal level of reserve under which all curial business is conducted. “The documents in a penal trial are not public domain, but they are available for authorities, or people who are interested parties, and authorities who have a statutory jurisdiction over the matter,” Archbishop Scicluna explained to Vatican News.

When it comes to requests from civil authorities to the Holy See for case files or other information, there are rules and procedures to follow. “There has to be a specific request,” Archbishop Scicluna said, “all the formalities of international law are to be followed.” He went on to say that he thinks the change should facilitate communication, information-sharing, and the sharing of documentation among ecclesiastical and secular authorities.

Archbishop Scicluna clarified one important point for the Catholic Herald. In response to follow-up queries, he explained that the change in the secrecy law is not only forward-looking, but will also apply to older cases. “The law applies immediately to all new requests for information concerning all cases,” he said.

It’s worth mentioning that a pope could still put anything he wishes under pontifical secret, too. The difference is that, for a good long while, everything related to criminal investigations and trials has been under pontifical secret (unless it wasn’t), and now things related to investigations and trials on sex crimes charges will not be under pontifical secret (unless they’re put under it).

The changes in the law are indeed significant, but the Vatican’s own official interpreters carefully admit that the change does less than it appears to do, and much less than the Vatican’s message managers claim. What real, practical difference the change will make at this point, remains to be seen.


If Jesus teaches that “The truth shall set you free” why would any of his “followers” want to have millions of secrets and prevent the whole world from knowing all about them?

It’s because everyone with a smidgen of power in the RCC is involved in dark dealings that must not see the light of day.

The RCC has evolved into one of the most evil institutions the world has ever seen and the Darkness always fears the light.

The RCC should be seen as part of the global axis of evil.

But the world will not designate it as evil because it is part of the evil world.

The RCC belongs to the world and not to Christ.

It only pays lip service to Christ.

As Jesus said: “Would that you were not or cold. But you are lukewarm. And I will spit you from my mouth”.


3.10: Your phraseology “axil of evil” is most unoriginal and borrowed from another’s description of murderous regimes in the world. If Jesus himself appeared to Pat this moment he’d be told to go back to his crib in Bethlehem, such is Pat’s inflated sense of his messiah complex. One day it will be revealed to Pat that his hatred and vengeance against Catholic clergy and his many enemies got in the way of God’s love and mercy. Either we practice what Jesus says or we are just playing games….which i believe Pat mostly does.


@ 3:38pm
The RCC does NOT practice God’s love and mercy (Save those who abuse children and vulnerable adults: they get a free pass and are elevated to the state of episcopate), Romanism is the institution of the most EVIL one. The Devil himself.
— Only pure EVIL could standby and allow abuse of the most vulnerable; and those who standby-or protect the perpetrators-are just as EVIL as the perpetrators themselves because they provide the setting, the backdrop; they provide a dark and devious playground for the DEVIL to play out his unholy and blasphemous games on the children of God.
Sadly, it is those who put their unquestionable trust in Roman clergy who are hurt and damaged the most.
But do NOT be fooled — the time is coming-indeed we are now seeing in world media-the DEVIL and his works are being uncovered and the light is now beginning to dispel the darkness.


As was said in that article the Pontifical Secret had become a legal liability.
Lawyers in the US have commenced a Class Action targeting the Vatican’s wealth – Hurn et al. v. The Holy See.
The claimants are all New York victims of Clerical Child Sexual Abuse and they are claiming damages against the Roman Papacy on the grounds that that the Holy See’s policy of forced secrecy in child sex abuse cases fostered systemic Child Sexual Abuse.
Here are the details –

Have regard to Isaiah, chapter 63 –
Who is this who comes from Edom,
in crimsoned garments from Bozrah,
he who is splendid in his apparel,
marching in the greatness of his strength?


Quick, try to distract attention by pointing to other ecclesial bodies who have failed in safeguarding!


Thank you Joseph for the link allowing us to read the class action document. It’s revealing in laying bare the reality of RC institutional cover up of long standing knowledge of sexually abusive clerical behaviour.
Perhaps we’ll next see the Vatican putting itself “into liquidation” (just like the World Meeting of Families Company fiasco): anything to avoid taking responsibility.


When is MMM’s former trade of social work going to pay out for the lives wrecked in children’s homes and in the community? In the notorious Baby P case the family had been visited by social workers at least 60 times. When the Director of Social Services, a NI-born woman called Sharon Shoesmith was sacked she demanded and got £600k compensation.


As others have said, and I repeat to you @9:51, your infantile questioning is a blatant diversionary attempt to sidestep the issue because you have neither evidence nor competence to argue otherwise.
Again and again the Cathbots reveal their fragile grasp of reality.


Anon@ 9:51: Sharon Shoesmith exercised her employment rights to have the legality her sacking examined by an independent competent authority. It ruled in her favour that her dismissal was unfair and unjustified, and in consequence awarded her compensation not only for loss of employment/salary, but damages to her reputation and future employment prospects. There was not, to my knowledge, any appeal against that judgement.
Does that strike you, Anon@ 9:51 as unjustified? Maybe you know more than the independent individuals making that award?
Social work in the UK has been compared to asking surgeons to undertake delicate complicated operations with inadequate tools from a local hardware shop. With massive work overload created by staff shortages and inadequate resources at every level: foster parents, children’s homes, clerical/admin support etc , social workers easily become society’s scapegoat for problems created by politically motivated grinding poverty, inadequate housing and lack of community support. Against this background, with, of course, the benefit of hindsight, mistakes and errors of judgement are readily identified by the baying politicians and press. Identifying such errors are right and proper in order to learn and minimise repetition, but all too often just becomes a diversionary exercise to project blame on some unfortunate individual rather than address the root causes of much of society’s problems.
But all of this demands rigorous exercise of critical faculties Anon @ 9:51. Are you up for it by examining your own preconceptions, or perhaps your prejudices?


Why was there ever such a thing as the pontifical secret? We know you are an abuser but we won’t tell anyone. Does this guy Francis think he’s giving away something? I don’t k ow how much more the faithful need to hear before realising that the RCC is one big con. How can anyone in their right mind defend this diabolical anti christ organisation? In the name of all that is holy wise up


It is one big con. I cant believe the way I was sucked in and brainwashed during my early life. It still does my head in when I try to help people who are still in brainwash mode. It’s like talking to zombies. The lights are but there’s no one home 😥

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5.31: Pat, for many years you benefited materially, financially and socially for many years while in the Catholic Church: all your bills paid for: car allowance: meals supplied: laundry done for you: mass stipends and other financial gains. What hypocrisy you exhibit! Only when you got yourself into unresolveable conflict – did you decide to desert your true spiritual home. While you belonged, you benefited hugely in every way.


I enjoyed my years in the seminary. I left with high ideals and was totally ignorant of the horrors that awaited me in the clerical world – atheism, agnosticism, cynicism, masochism, authoritarianism, sexual dysfunction of any and every kind, materialism, violence, theft, rape. I even met one serving priest who was a paramilitary murderer.
From 1976 until 1986 I certainly had board and lodgings and at that time, a small income. £5 a week cash in,1976 and c £70 a month with some extras later on.
The conflict I got into was me resisting clericalism, violence against my person and unbridled authoritarianism.
Of course I brought all my human faults to bear.
I never deserted my spiritual home – which is Jesus Christ.
I just came to see clearly that there was nothing of Jesus in the RCC.


6.00: And – those who lived with and worked with you have a different story which doesn’t exonerate you of all responsibility and blame. Your own lifestyle and persinality wasn’t exactly conducive to harmony and good working relationships. Now, instead of enjoying a whiskey with the presbyterate which you freely chose to do, you still drink but in a different setting and you are frequently spotted out dining in fancy places.


6.00: Pat, violence, theft and rape? Why didn’t you go to the police or did you ever report su h incidents which probably didn’t really occur. You have an imagination.


One rapist I reported to Down and Connor is currently going through the judicial system. I reported my assault to Cahal Daly and he ordered me not to report it to the police. How I regret that now. I also reported the disappearance of £16,000 to Daly. Daly was a cover upper, as we know from his handling of Brendan Smyth.


6.21: Pat, I admire you for doing what you did, even though I disagree with the entirety of your story. As with many of your narratives, yours is the only one that matters to you alone. We each interpret our experiences to out own truth which isn’t always the full truth. At the end of the day the integrity of our judgment and conscience is what matters in the eyes of God.


Is that not a bit like what is said to all those who complain of having been hurt by clerics. “I disagree with the entirety of your story. As with many of your narratives, yours is the only one that matters to you alone. We each interpret our experiences to our own truth which isn’t always the full truth”.

Is not this the CLERICALIST response to all who claim victimhood.

And that’s good?


bishoppat 20th Dec 2019 — 6:21 pm — wrote, ” …I reported my assault to Cahal Daly and he ordered me not to report it to the police. … ”
The way that RC Bishops treat their clergy is genuinely medieval.
That Church is still organised along feudal lines. –
The Bishop is a Lord and ordinary priests are simply serfs.


6:11 Those who lived with me had good reason to dispute what I said – they were protecting themselves.
I make no excuses for socialing with my friends.


Pat, be aware that Vincent in Westminster is out to discredit you along with his supportive charlatans. He has made it his mission. He is seething at your name. His Council, who meet regularly, tell him about your blog and he hates you with a vengeance.


Pat you can know the quality of a man by who hates him. If this comment about Elsie is true you are real quality simply by getting that slimeball to hate you 🤗


So here is what I don’t understand. The Vatican make it illegal to not report about abuse. So far so good. The Vatican ask seminarians and other to talk with their supervisor (Priest, Rector, Vocation Director, Bishop etc) if they see or hear something. The one in charge should than take action – talk with the right people to start an investigation, maybe report it to the police etc. But here is the problem: Seminarians or lay people that report about abuse and bullying are in most cases treated as THEY are the problem, with the consequence that they are thrown out, shunned, pushed away and many times even victim blamed – i.e. they are blamed for what happened. “You probably teased the priest to raped you!”, “You are so difficult to deal with, nobody tried to rape you, they only tried to correct you and teach you a lesson”, sometimes even very openly promote abuse “As a seminarian you must obey the priest and those above you, if they want to have sex with you you should let them have that otherwise you are disobedient and not suitable for becoming a priest in the future”.
So when the idea about that things must be reported and there should be some sort of transparency sounds great, we all know it is just words to calm the masses. There wont be any change unless there is a change in the victim blaming culture and seminarians and other lay people can be sure about that they wont be blamed or shunned for telling and reporting about what they have seen or experienced of abuse and bullying.


Secrets hi Get Smart MI 5 CIA Popes Secret What’s the Point? Vatican jurisdiction should not apply outside the Vatican State. Nor should it be a refuge for waifs and strays from priestville anywhere ho ho ho hi


Who knew that MMM was a social workerbot, defending them right or wrong. Any compensation for Kincora, a revolting mix of social worker, police, army, political and evo Protestant cover-up?


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