Pope Francis Abolishes ‘Pontifical Secret’ in Clergy Sex-Abuse Cases
NO MORE EXCUSES
Pope Francis has abolished the “pontifical secret” mechanism that has been invoked in clergy sexual abuse cases, following criticism that the confidential code has been used to protect pedophiles in the Roman Catholic church. In a document published Tuesday, Francis ruled that information in abuse cases will still be be protected by church leaders, but that the “pontifical secret” no longer applies to abuse-related accusations and trials. The ruling doesn’t mean the in-house legal proceedings will become public, but experts say the reform will remove any excuse to not co-operate with legitimate legal requests from civil law-enforcement authorities. Pope Benedict XVI decreed in 2001 that sex-abuse cases must be dealt with under “pontifical secret,” the highest form of secrecy in the church, insisting it was a move to protect the privacy of the victim. However, victims say it has been used to silence them and keep law enforcement from investigating crimes. In another new rule, Francis raised to 18 from 14 the cutoff age below which the Vatican considers pornographic images to be child pornography.