What the church’s ‘oath of perpetual silence’ really means

JOSEPH BARRY (Irish Examiner letters, June 1) wrongly concludes that “the strictest secret” in the Vatican document Crimen Sollicitationis refers to “the secrets which a Catholic priest hears from penitents in confession.”

On the contrary, Crimen Sollicitationis makes no reference whatsoever to this.

The document concerns itself only with the crimes committed by priests and religious such as “the worst crime” of sex abuse inflicted upon “youths of either sex or with brute animals” and “the unspeakable crime” of soliciting for sex in the confessional.

Mr Barry correctly points out that “confession of sins to a Catholic priest is governed by strict rules of secrecy” which requires the priest in the confessional “to keep the secrets which he hears from penitents.”

But the evil instructions to “secrecy” in the document Crimen Sollicitationis are directed at the thousands of victims of clerical and religious abuse crimes, together with the witnesses to such crimes, requiring them to be placed “under a solemn oath” to maintain “a perpetual silence, as a secret of the Holy Office, in all matters and with all persons (which includes the civil authorities).”

Crimen Sollicitationis seeks to copperfasten its papal injunctions with the threat of “excommunication” for any failures by any of the parties to maintain the diabolically inspired “oath of perpetual silence” to ensure the success of the cover-up of church crimes.

The already traumatised victims of clerical abuses, by this Vatican-imposed “oath of perpetual silence,” are prevented from discussing their shocking experiences with even their closest family members, friends or the civil authorities.

Likewise the Catholic bishops in Ireland and around the world who became aware, over very many years, of such church crimes have willingly participated in the ‘cover-up’ instructions in Crimen Sollicitationis, pleading they were also bound by the same Vatican-imposed “oath of perpetual silence.”

This is the plea of the likes of Cardinal Bernard Law, the former Archbishop of Boston, who was granted asylum from the US justice system within the walls of the Vatican by Pope John Paul II.

Pope Benedict XVI is continuing this Vatican asylum policy in his unashamed support for those who wish to maintain their “oath of perpetual silence” as they participate in the cover-up instructions as outlined in Crimen Sollicitationis.

The new Pope, Benedict XVI, has already sought the intervention of the US State Department to declare himself immune from a sexual abuse lawsuit filed in Houston Texas.

The Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston is named as a co-defendant in the suit which accuses the Pope, then acting as a cardinal, of conspiring to cover-up the alleged abuse about a decade ago. The suit names a former seminary student as the alleged abuser.

The Vatican ‘rat lines’ which ensured escape from justice to countries such as Mexico and Argentina for many Nazi criminals is now being used in reverse as an escape from local civil justice systems into the Vatican itself for clerical and religious child abusers.

These include the widely reported alleged serial abuser Marcial Maciel, the priest who founded the Legionnaires of Christ in Mexico. The present Pope regards him as a “close friend.” It is now widely believed that the election of Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger to the papacy was principally due to the fact that the 115 cardinals who gave him their vote knew that he was fully behind the instructions in the document Crimen Sollicitationis, as he confirmed in his letter to them in May 2001.

More importantly, they are assured by Pope Benedict XVI of being granted similar asylum within the walls of the Vatican as that granted to Cardinal Law and Marcel Maciel, should the need ever arise.

The conclusion of Mr Barry that “the significance of the secrecy requirements in the document Crimen Sollicitationis is being blown out of proportion” is not a view shared by the thousands of innocent, traumatised victims of church abuses, members of their families, and concerned people everywhere.

Patrick Geaney

13 South Bank Estate


Co Dublin

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