Kieran Tapsell Pontifical Secret
Author: Kieran Tapsell
Publication: Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
Dr Austin in par 293 of his Report states that the 1962 Instruction Crimen Sollicitationis: “…required the strictest confidentiality to be observed in the matters which it regulated, including the sexual abuse of minors. Likewise, the present law promulgated by Pope John Paul II on 30 April 2001 provides that cases of the sexual abuse of minors reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are subject to the pontifical secret, in accordance with the Instruction Secreta Continere.” Then in par 299 of his Report, Dr Austin claims that “There is no law or other provision within the Church’s canonical system that prohibits Church officials from complying with” civil law requirements for reporting child sexual abuse. There is a prohibition in canon law: the pontifical secret, the Church’s highest form of confidentiality. Confidentiality, whether in civil or canon law, requires not telling anyone, unless the law itself provides for exceptions. Art 11 of Crimen Sollicitationis imposed a permanent silence over all information obtained through Church investigations of child sexual abuse. There was no exception either in it or in any other Church law, including the 1917 Code for reporting to the civil authorities. Art. I (4) and III (1) of Secreta Continere imposes a permanent silence not only on that information, but on the “extrajudicial denunciation”, that is the complaint by a victim or the parents of a victim to a priest’s superior. The confidentiality was imposed not only on the staff of canonical tribunals but on: “Cardinals, bishops, prelate superiors, major and minor officials, consultors, experts and ministers of lower rank who are concerned with the treatment of questions which are subject to papal or pontifical secrecy.” Art. II (4) provides that even those who come across that information by accident are bound by the pontifical secret. Secreta Continere provided only one exception – the accused could be told about the allegation if it were necessary for his defence. There was no exception for reporting to the civil authorities until 2010 when the Vatican first announced that bishops should obey civil laws on reporting. In making that announcement, the Vatican spokesman, Fr Lombardi, stated that such reporting should not take place during or subsequent to a canonical trial. This restriction on reporting was confirmed by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in 2015 in the Fr Inzoli case. It also seems to have been confirmed by that Congregation in response to a request by this Royal Commission for documents in relation to a particular priest when it said it could not provide them because it would “compromise the integrity of the canonical proceeding.” That there is a prohibition on reporting to the civil authorities was confirmed by Dr Austin himself in his evidence to the Cunneen Special Commission in 2013. He was asked about oaths of secrecy taken by Church officials. Q. So, for example, anyone who had previously taken an oath of secrecy and who was then required to give evidence in a civil court ‐ tell me if this is wrong as a proposition ‐ would not be restrained by canon law or church law from giving full evidence?
For more information visit:https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/sites/default/files/IND.0688.001.0001.pdf