This is what you should know about the abolition of the ‘pontifical secret’

The Supreme Pontiff announced radical changes in the cases of sexual abuse committed by Catholic priests.

Pope Francisco

Pope Francisco / Photo: Reuters

LatinAmerican Post | Marcela Peñaloza

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Cases of pedophilia have become one of the biggest scandals of the Catholic Church. In several countries, the victims have reported being abused by Catholic priests and, however, for many, the institution has not taken the necessary measures to put an end to that scourge. In countless cases, the complainants have not seen justice and the Vatican has been directed to protect its members by keeping secret evidence, thanks to the rules of silence and confidentiality that govern the priests.

Previously, the victims had requested the abolition of this type of practice and now Pope Francis has announced, on December 17, changes in the Norms of Serious Crimes. Among the measures is the abolition of the 'pontifical secret' in cases of abuse against minors. This means that as regards confidentiality, "no link of silence can be imposed with respect to the facts or the complainant, or the person who claims to have been harmed or the witnesses." Additionally, regarding the possession of child pornography, Francisco also ordered the crime to be hardened and the age of those under 18 increased.

The decision means that civil authorities will have access to canonical testimonies and documents. The Vatican says that the termination of the pontifical secrecy will apply to “cases of violence and sexual acts committed under threat or abuse of authority, cases of abuse of minors and vulnerable people, cases of child pornography, cases of non-complaint and cover-up of the abusers by the bishops and superiors of the religious institutes ”.

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Through its Twitter account, the Vatican announced that the measures were adopted by Francisco in order to follow "the path of transparency" and recognizing that the welfare of children and young people is above any other. In its news portal, the Vatican explains “that the allegations, testimonies and procedural documents relating to cases of abuse preserved in the archives of the Vatican Dicasteries, as well as those found in the archives of the dioceses, and that so far were subject to pontifical secrecy, may be delivered to the magistrates instructors of the respective countries that request them. It is a sign of openness, availability, transparency, and collaboration with civil authorities. ”

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However, it is important to clarify that information related to cases of abuse will not be in the public domain. In this regard, the Vatican states that “the reservation of victims and witnesses must always be protected. But now the documentation must be made available to the civil authorities for the investigation of the cases already involved in the canonical procedures. ” The decisions come into effect immediately.

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