“The culture of secrecy in the Church contributes to authoritarianism and patriarcalism”



Sexual abuse is rooted in the abuse of power, which is very often the first step. And if the abuses of power take many forms, some and not the least, are based on the excessive and, let’s say it, clericalist use of secrecy.

→ TRIBUNE. “The bankruptcy of the Church is the result of a real pathology of speech”

After repeated calls for decades by numerous bodies including the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, Pope Francis finally lifted the pontifical secrecy on December 17, 2019 when it concerns cases of sexual violence and abuse of minors committed by members of the clergy. However, this can only be a step because the culture of secrecy which still prevails in the Church for reasons not always justified, even unhealthy, still contributes to authoritarianism, clericalism, patriarcalism, all attitudes deeply disrespectful of baptismal equality. Three examples.

Crimen Solicitationis, a text that has remained secret for more than a century

We know today without yet knowing all the twists and turns, the route of the text Crimen solicitationis, aimed at putting in place procedures to respond to the event that a cleric solicits sexual favors as part of confession. The theme is explosive for the Church, which evokes it from 1741 and brings it into the canon law of 1917.

→ MAINTENANCE. Sexual abuse: “This text by Benedict XVI asks a lot of questions”

But the text explaining what to do in the event of a “crime of solicitation”, giving its name to this document, was published for the first time in 1922 but remained secret: we did not learn of its existence until 1962! But this document, which contained practical procedures aimed at the cleric author of abuse, was not officially published: the text was only sent to a few episcopal conferences.

Which ones and why? Is it enough to invoke a certain idea of ​​”wrongdoing in the Church” to justify this secrecy? Wasn’t it on the contrary a question of doing “good” to the Church at the moment when she had to face the facts of reality? Crimen solicitationis remained in force until 2001.

The lack of transparency around the condemnation of contraception

The second example has been investigated many times. At the time of Vatican Council II, Pope Paul VI reserved the question of birth control and appointed a “pontifical commission for the study of population, family and birth problems”, whose work was to remain secrets. But, in June 1964, Paul VI revealed its existence. Catholic public opinion is delighted. Successive leaks have made it possible to understand that experts known for their conservatism had rallied to the idea of ​​new directives, and that Paul VI therefore felt obliged to enlarge the commission several times.

Humanae vitae, your testimonials and reactions

In the end, the majority conclusion is the possible legality of the “contraceptive intervention”, that is to say the pill! But the text was not published, nor the negotiations between October 1966 (delivery of the commission’s report) and the publication ofHumanae vitae, in July 1968, which on the contrary condemns the use of contraception. As Martine Sevegrand reminds us, “The encyclical is the revenge of the men of the curia (…) disavowing practically all the experts and a strong majority of bishops. ” (1)

Two conclusions to this: according to the word of Christ, “Nothing is veiled that will not be revealed, nothing is secret that will not be known” (Luke 12,2) and at the time of the revelation, the scandal redoubled; and then: is it not because the people of God (and even the fathers of the council) were not ultimately involved in this reflection from the shadows thatHumanae vitae has never been received?

Female diaconate, a report never published

A third example is both a protest and a demand for today. It concerns the commission for the female diaconate set up by Francis on April 9, 2020. After the work of the International Theological Commission in 2003, a commission was appointed in 2016 by Pope Francis in response to many requests including that of the International Union of Superiors General (UISG). Eventually, she delivered her report in May 2019, but this document that was supposed to provide arguments was never published. Why ? What were we afraid to disclose?

→ ANALYSIS. The Pope relaunches reflection on the female diaconate

The Pope himself was not satisfied with this and appointed a new commission. But what will it be? Will it finally make its arguments public? The question of the diaconate like that of the regulation of births, and like many other points, cannot be confined in the secret archives of the curia. These texts are no secret since they must be rooted in the Word of God and the practices of the early Church. All their arguments must absolutely be published, disseminated to the people of God, otherwise the latter cannot welcome them.

Wanting to maintain the secrecy of texts that have no reason to remain secret is to further contribute to the logic of collapse highlighted by the Ciase report.

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