Pope Francis abolishes pontifical

Kieran Tapsell. The Cunneen Report’s Comments on Canon and Civil Law

Kieran Tapsell Cunneen Report

Author: Kieran Tapsell

Publication: John Menadue – Pearls and Irritations blog

Date: 02JUN2014

On 30 May 2014, the Report of the Special Commission of Inquiry into Matters relating to the Police Investigation of Certain Child Sexual Abuse Allegations in the Catholic Diocese of Maitland–Newcastle (“Cunneen Report”) was published by the New South Wales Government.

The Report rejected allegations by former Detective Inspector Fox that there was an attempt by the NSW Police not to properly investigate cases of the sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy.

But the Report severely criticized the Church in the Maitland-Newcastle diocese for covering up those allegations over a long period of time.

When it came to canon law and the obligation to report such crimes to the police, the Report stated:

6.2 The relationship between canon law and civil law (that is, the ordinary law of the land) is complex. In many important respects, however, canon law does not displace civil law obligations. Thus, for example, the 1983 Code of Canon Law places no restrictions on any civil law obligation of a church official to report to civil authorities (such as the police) allegations of child sexual abuse committed by a priest.

It is true that the 1983 Code of Canon Law places no restrictions on reporting – in fact it says nothing about it one way or another. But the 1983 Code of Canon Law is not the whole of canon law. The “pontifical secret”, the Church’s top secret classification, a permanent silence, is imposed by the 1974 decree of Pope Paul VI, Secreta Continere, Art 1§4, on all allegations and information about child sexual abuse by clergy that the Church has obtained through its own internal investigations.

In 2001, Pope John Paul II issued his Motu Proprio, Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela (which is also not part of the Code) in which he changed some of the procedures under the Code for dealing with child sexual abuse and other canonical crimes. Article 25 of the “norms” attached to that document specifically provided that “cases of this kind are subject to the pontifical secret”, and footnote 31 that immediately follows refers to Art 1§4 of “Secreta Continere”.

For more information visit: https://johnmenadue.com/kieran-tapsell-the-cunneen-reports-comments-on-canon-and-civil-law-2/


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