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Spotlight on Catholic Church "pontifical secrecy" rule

"The carnival of obscurity is over."

Hopefully that will now be the case, although the results stemming from a recent Vatican announcement relevant to sex abuse reports involving clerics will only become apparent with the passage of time.

The above comment, offered by a survivor of clergy abuse, links to a summarily stunning adjustment concerning the long-time church adherence to so-called “pontifical secrecy” in abuse cases.

The Vatican formally announced the abolition of the secrecy rule via a highly touted new law spotlighted last month. That edict, announced on Pope Francis’ 83rd birthday, renders pontifical secrecy inapplicable in future matters involving abuse allegations, requests for information in civil cases and at trial

The secrecy cloak has long been used by church authorities to effectively halt inquiries into clerical misconduct. A recent national media report notes the “mounting criticism” surrounding the practice, and the charge that it “has been used to protect pedophiles, silence victims and prevent police from investigating crimes.”

Will the ban make a difference?

Victims’ rights groups and commentators express couched optimism that it will. A spokesperson for the prominent advocacy organization SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) stresses that Vatican promises are presently “only words on paper, and what needs to happen next is concrete action.”

Meaningful action will obviously be demonstrated through proven church cooperation with civil and criminal authorities seeking to make inroads in sex abuse matters.

The reforms “symbolize an important step in the right direction,” states one commentator.

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