In recent days the Archbishop of Santiago Chile has refused to turn over documents to a Chilean civil court regarding Father Fernando Kardima’s sexual abuse of children. The Archbishop is attempting to invoke a doctrine of canonical or pontifical secrecy. By hiding behind the pontifical secret the Archbishop is clearing communicating that the reputation of the Hierarchy and individual clerics are more important than child safety.
Pontifical secrecy in matters of child sexual abuse is an official policy of the Holy See. The reality is that the Archbishop is following the direction of the Holy See. The current version of the pontifical secret is published in the Acta Apostolicae Sedis volume 66, 1974, pages 89-92. All can view the policy and formula on the website for the Holy See.
The use of the pontifical secret as a special privilege brings to light the core problem of clerical immunity for the crimes of child sexual abuse. Until civil authorities challenge clerical immunity and hold Church officials to the same standard of conduct, children will not be safe. Secrecy, privilege and immunity does not protect children.