Kieran Tapsell Royal Commission
Title: Canon Law a Systemic Factor in Child Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church
Author: Kieran Tapsell
Publication: Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse
1 Student for the Catholic priesthood at St. Columba’s College, Springwood, and St. Patrick’s College Manly from 1962 to 1967. Studied Canon Law for some 3 years, and obtained a Baccalaureate in Sacred Theology degree. After leaving the seminary, studied Law at Sydney University, graduating with Second Class Honours in 1972. Admitted as a Solicitor and Barrister of the Supreme Court of NSW in 1973, a partner in the firm of Watkins Tapsell from 1973 to 2004, and consultant to the firm from 2004 to 2013, an Accredited Specialist in Commercial Litigation and Advocacy, a District Court Arbitrator and Mediator, Acting District Court Judge from 1996 to 1999 and the author of articles in legal journals on topics within my area of specialization. Since retiring from the law partnership in 2004, has been translating Latin American literature from Spanish to English. Has not acted for the Church or victims in relation to sexual abuse and, to my knowledge, neither has my firm up until my retirement from the partnership in 2004. Returned to research canon law in about 2007 after reading about one of my seminary professors, Bede Heather, who, as Bishop of Parramatta, refused to hand over to the police a report from a canon lawyer on complaints of sexual abuse within his diocese. Started preparing a submission to the Royal Commission on canon law in January 2013, but decided to turn it into a book in April 2013. Potiphar’s Wife: The Vatican’s Secret and Child Sexual Abuse was published in May 2014 (ATF Press)
In 1974, Pope Paul VI by his Instruction, Secreta Continere abolished the “secret of the Holy Office” and replaced it with the “pontifical secret”. He expanded the Church’s highest form of secrecy outside the confessional to cover “delicts against faith and morals” by both clergy, religious and laypersons. It more than doubled the number of people within the Church who would be covered by the pontifical secret in cases of the sexual abuse of children. It further expanded the strictest secrecy to cover not only the information obtained through a SUBM.2398.001.0015 16 canonical inquiry and trial but also the “extrajudicial denunciation”, that is, an allegation made to the accused’s superior.