Pope lifts pontifical secrecy rule in abuse cases

Pope Francis has abolished the "pontifical secret" rule in cases of sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. The rule of secrecy applied equally to perpetrators and victims. Statements given in church trials can now be passed on to civil authorities. Europe's press praises the measure as an important step and discusses the far-reaching consequences.

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Süddeutsche Zeitung (DE) /

The end of parallel church justice

This is a major but long overdue step for the Vatican, the Süddeutsche Zeitung comments:

“It abolishes an instrument of power that protected perpetrators, discouraged victims, hindered cooperation with public prosecutors and left those affected unclear about the status of proceedings. The pope is putting into practice what he promised at the crisis conference in the Vatican almost a year ago - a good sign. At least formally, it marks the end of the period of parallel church justice. As the German bishops decided long ago, there is no longer any reason for even the Vatican to withhold suspicious cases from the secular judiciary if the accused can expect to be tried in conformity with the rule of law.”

Irish Examiner (IE) /

Not everyone will go along with the decision

It is not yet clear whether the Catholic Church is really ready for this step, the Irish Examiner says:

“Though described as an 'epochal decision', the change will have no value unless it is universally observed. ... The Pope also forbade imposing an obligation of silence on those who report sexual abuse or allege they have been a victim - a particularly odious imposition frequently used in this country to protect paedophiles, very much to the emotional and psychological detriment of victims. It is not unknown for this pope's policies to be challenged and these changes may be, too. How that opposition, should it materialise, is dealt with will be defining.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

Preparation for the next conclave

Vatican expert Alberto Melloni suspects in La Repubblica that the pope wants to prevent interference in the election of his successor:

“With his theology of poverty, Bergoglio has clearly marked the distance to the evangelical right. The pope's determined rejection of nationalist and anti-Semitic impulses has made clerical fascists hostile to the Church. So it's easy to predict that - as with Brexit or Trump's election - the big international actors will be active on the web. They could manipulate the election of the Bishop of Rome by accusing one or more candidates of paedophilia, and thus making them ineligible. The only way to avoid this risk is to ensure that the College of Cardinals is completely free of suspicion.”

Polityka (PL) /

Interests of the Church no longer paramount

The pope has ended an era, Polityka writes:

“By abolishing the 'pontifical secret', Pope Francis is allowing Church authorities to improve their cooperation with the state authorities responsible for investigating paedophilia. ... Pope Francis's decision closes a chapter in the history of canon law in which the interests of the Church took priority over dealing with the perpetrators. Time will tell whether it works, to what extent and in which local churches. But in a legal and moral sense, Pope Francis's decision launches a new era, and hopefully a better one.”