Pope Francis abolishes pontifical

Kieran Tapsell: Has the Pontifical Secret Been Secretly Buried?

Pontifical Secret Secretly Buried?

Author: Kieran Tapsell

Title: KIERAN TAPSELL: Has the Pontifical Secret Been Secretly Buried?

Publication: John Menadue – Pearls and Irritations blog

Date: 12JUN2019

After the criticisms of the pontifical secret at the February summit conference in Rome on child sexual abuse, it was widely expected that it would be abolished. It never happened, but recent announcements by two bishops’ conferences suggest that it may have been quietly buried behind closed doors.  

At the February summit of the heads of national Catholic Bishops’ Conferences in Rome on child sexual abuse, three prominent speakers, Cardinal Marx, Professor Linda Ghisoni and Archbishop Scicluna criticized the pontifical secret, imposed by canon law over child sexual abuse by clergy. It was widely expected that Pope Francis would abolish it, and would impose mandatory reporting to the civil authorities under canon law, as demanded by two United Nations Committees in 2014.

After imposing mandatory reporting to the civil authorities within the confines of the Vatican City for the protection of the 30 children who live there, Pope Francis issued his Apostolic Letter, Vos Estis Lux Mundi on 7 May 2019. He made some changes to canon law over child sexual abuse to be applied universally throughout the Church. He made no mention of the pontifical secret being abolished, and did not impose mandatory reporting to the civil authorities.

The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse had found that the pontifical secret still applied where there were no applicable civil reporting laws and recommended its abolition. In response to the Royal Commission’s recommendations, the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (‘ACBC’) stated that the pontifical secret ‘does not in any way inhibit a bishop or religious leader from reporting instances of child sexual abuse to civil authorities.’

It is not clear on what basis the ACBC made that statement, because its protocol for dealing with child sexual abuse, Towards Healing 2010, had required bishops to report all allegations to the civil authorities irrespective of whether there was a civil reporting law. The ACBC forwarded the protocol to Rome for vetting in accordance with the 2011 direction of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. It received a reply back from the Congregation on 22 February 2013 stating that clauses 39 and 40, which imposed mandatory reporting for all, could not apply to clergy who were governed by Sacramentorum Sanctitatis Tutela 2010, which, by Article 30, imposed the pontifical secret. In other words, mandatory reporting was fine for everyone else in the Church, but not for clergy. The ACBC in 2016 amended Towards Healing acknowledging the ‘exclusive competence of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in matters of child sexual abuse of minors perpetrated by clerics.’

On 15 February 2016, Cardinal O’Malley, the President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, stated that irrespective of civil reporting laws, Church authorities had an ethical and moral obligation to report all child sexual abuse to the civil authorities. Yet, when the Commission issued its guidelines for national protocols over child sexual abuse on 6 December 2016, Cardinal O’Malley’s statement was missing.

For more information visit: https://johnmenadue.com/kieran-tapsell-has-the-pontifical-secret-been-secretly-buried/

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