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The Price is Right

By Diogenes (articles ) | Nov 18, 2003

The Archdiocese of Cincinnati has cut a deal with the DA backing down on its claims for the confidentiality of archival documents:

As part of the agreement, the archdiocese will give prosecutors documents that it had previously argued were confidential communications between church officials and their attorneys. Terms of that deal were revealed Monday afternoon when prosecutors and the archdiocese dismissed their claims against each other in the Ohio 1st District Court of Appeals. The court heard arguments last week about why church officials wanted to keep the records secret, and why prosecutors wanted to see them.

The demands of confidentiality, you see, are absolute. At least until we hear a better offer. Readers of Evelyn Waugh will remember the Nestorian Patriarch's line in Black Mischief:

'In happened in the time of Gorgias, my predecessor, of evil memory,' said his Beatitude, 'and the intelligence was delivered to me on my assumption of office, under a seal so holy that only extreme personal vexation induces me to break it.'

It's reasonable that a Catholic diocese should enjoy its rights-at-law as party to a civil proceeding. But it has responsibilities graver than those of other litigants; it teaches the world about itself and its faith in all its public actions -- not simply in the words spoken from the pulpit. If on some occasions a Catholic body makes use of privileged confidentiality for tactical reasons, it should be aware of the likelihood that it is compounding scandal by so doing, and should therefore strive for an institutional openness -- especially openness about its failings -- that is above and beyond the call of duty. The diocese's main task is not to keep its higher clergy out of jail (cf. the Archbishop of Minsk below) but to speak the truth, especially when it's difficult to do so.

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