Swing and a miss
By Diogenes (articles ) | Jul 29, 2003
The Worcester Telegraph and Gazette carries a story claiming that a Houston lawyer named Daniel Shea has a 1962 document from the Vatican's Holy Office imposing secrecy under pain of excommunication in matters pertaining to clergy sexual abuse.
The 40-page document, which was obtained by the Telegram & Gazette, was promulgated in 1962 by the Supreme and Holy Congregation of the Holy Office under the pontificate of Pope John XXIII and was printed by the Vatican Press. It is marked confidential and states it is to be stored in the "secret archives" and is to be treated as "strictly confidential."
Some are claiming to have found the smoking gun here. I'm skeptical. It's almost unthinkable that, in 1962, a sensitive ecclesiastical document would not be written in Latin. If what Shea has is an English translation, who made it and why?
The title is given as "On the Manner of Proceeding in Cases of Solicitation." "Solicitation" in moral/canonical parlance is a technical term meaning manipulation of a penitent by a confessor in order to procure sexual favors. This suggests that the Vatican document concerns not clergy sexual abuse per se, but abuse of the confessional for sexual purposes. In this case the need for secrecy is not a sinister cover-up orchestrated by the Vatican, but a simple entailment of the seal of the confessional, the Church's standard -- and indispensable -- practice for dealing with "internal forum" matter. (If Jane complains to Bishop Smith -- instead of the police -- that Father Jones solicited favors in the confessional, Bishop Smith doesn't publicize the names of the principals in dealing with the matter.)
It'll be interesting to read the Latin text when it becomes available. In the meantime, and in default of evidence to the contrary, the more humdrum vices still provide the most satisfactory explanation for The Crisis.
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