Friday, March 19, 2010

Revealed: the oath Brady, Smyth and the children swore
Breda Heffernen - Irish Independent - 3/18/2010

"I will never directly or indirectly, by means of a nod, or of a word, by writing, or in any other way, and under whatever type of pretext, even for the most urgent and most serious cause (even) for the purpose of a greater good, commit anything against this fidelity to the secret, unless a...dispensation has been expressly given to me by the Supreme Pontiff."

THIS is the oath of secrecy the child victims of paedophile priest Brendan Smyth were told to sign during their meetings with Cardinal Sean Brady 35 years ago.

Crimen Solicitationis, the Latin for 'Crime of Solicitation', is a secret 1962 Vatican document which only came to light in recent years.

It instructed bishops how to handle allegations of sex abuse against priests in their diocese and set out an oath of secrecy.

All those involved in the 1975 investigation into Smyth, Cardinal Brady -- then a 36-year-old priest -- the children who had been abused and Smyth himself, were required to sign the oath.
To break the vow would lead to excommunication from the Catholic Church.

The document was written by Cardinal Alfredo Ottaviani, then prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, previously known as the Inquisition. (Cardinal Ottaviani also had much to do with Pope Paul's VI renunciation of the recommendations of the Papal Birth Control Commission.)

It was only to be circulated among bishops and it demanded that all parties to an investigation keep a "perpetual silence".

Scripted in dense legal language, the document sets out the steps to be taken for investigating crimes of solicitation against priests.

Once the tribunal has reached its conclusion, it lays out a number of different courses. If there is no foundation to the allegations, all documents relating to the accusation must be destroyed.
If it is not possible to determine if a crime has occurred, the documents should be stored in the diocesan archives to be re-opened if another allegation is made in the future.


Should the tribunal find there are "indications of a crime serious enough but not yet sufficient to institute an accusatorial process", a check should be kept on the "morals" of the priest.
In the event where it is certain the priest has offended, he is tried under canon law.

Since its unearthing in 2003, opinion has been split on whether the document provides the "smoking gun" to prove there was a conspiracy by the Vatican to cover-up the problem of paedophile priests.

The Irish Bishops' Conference last week said the document had been consistently misrepresented in the media and that it was never the intention of the oath to prevent victims from reporting crimes to the civil authorities.

One canon lawyer has said an oath of secrecy is not unusual in church investigations and is not specific to sex abuse cases. And although those taking part in the investigation are required to remain silent while it is being carried out, they can report the abuse to police before this. (this also applies to any bishop or superior of the offender.)

However Paddy Doyle, author of 'The God Squad' and a survivor of institutional abuse, last night described the oath of secrecy as "chilling".
"It's tough enough to read it as an adult because of the language that is used, never mind putting that to a terrified child. How are they supposed to understand that? (Especially since it precludes them from talking to their parents.)

"My first reaction is absolute disgust, it has to be some sort of criminal offence. In effect, what you are doing is... the bishops and priests are dragging children into becoming criminals by making them collude," he told the Irish Independent. (Against themselves no less.)


This is a pretty heavy burden to lay on a ten year old, as was done by Ireland's Cardinal Brady in 1975 when he was the notary for an investigation of the serial pedophile Bryndan Smyth. For those who aren't familiar with the case, Smyth went on to abuse hundreds of victims as he was transferred time and time again--twice in fact to the US. In both his US assignments he left a trail of abuse victims. The Irish court system finally caught up with him in 1995, but the Irish Church court system had allowed his predations to knowingly go on for some forty years.

When I first read the above oath I was struck with it's wording and wondered if it was the entire oath taken by witnesses and officials at these investigations. I found out it's only the last part of the oath. I doubt very many ten year olds could even understand the first parts, but it is a pretty specific oath, and certainly does threaten excommunication and state only the Pope can free one from this oath.

Then I started back tracking and reading the entire document. The four major indiscretions this document deals with, and it makes no distinctions in gravity, are solicitation of sex in the confessional, sexual activity with minor boys and girls, homosexual acts with adults, and bestiality. Given this it's not too surprising that bestiality, homosexuality between consenting adults and pedophilia are frequently all mixed up in the minds of some of our bishops.

Then I wondered what changed in 2001 when Cardinal Ratzinger issued his letter De Delictis Gravioribus. I found out it was the definition of what constituted a grave delict:

The more grave delicts both in the celebration of the sacraments and against morals reserved to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith are:

-Delicts against the sanctity of the most august eucharistic sacrifice and the sacraments, namely:
1. Taking or retaining the consecrated species for a sacrilegious purpose or throwing them away.
2. Attempting the liturgical action of the eucharistic sacrifice or simulating the same.
3. Forbidden concelebration of the eucharistic sacrifice with ministers of ecclesial communities which do not have apostolic succession and do not recognize the sacramental dignity of priestly ordination.
4. Consecrating for a sacrilegious purpose one matter without the other in the eucharistic celebration or even both outside a eucharistic celebration.

-Delicts against the sanctity of the sacrament of penance, namely:
1. Absolution of an accomplice in sin against the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue.
2. Solicitation in the act, on the occasion or under the pretext of confession, to sin against the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue, if it is directed to sin with the confessor himself. (I guess this means one can still solicit for someone else. Interesting.)
3. Direct violation of the sacramental seal.

-A delict against morals, namely:
the delict committed by a cleric against the Sixth Commandment of the Decalogue with a minor below the age of 18 years.

Only these delicts, which are indicated above with their definition, are reserved to the apostolic tribunal of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith.

It seems the changes in 2001 dropped gay sex and bestiality but added delicts designed to protect the sacramental nature of the priesthood and the reserved right of priests to 'confect' the Eucharist. I guess by 2001 women priests were seen as a bigger delict than gay sex or bestiality. They certainly get excommunicated a whole lot faster than most pedophiles. Must be because there are far fewer. In any event the demand for pontifical secrecy stayed in effect.

This research answered my questions as to why excommunication came so quick for Catholics associated with the ordination of women. Like pedophelia, this is now considered a grave delict.
Also it's much easier to prove since most ordinations have plenty of video evidence some of it even shot by self appointed sacramental police.

Getting back to the original article, I can't imagine how I would have felt as a ten year old faced with clerics dressed in black, forcing me to take an oath I didn't understand, except that talking about what happened to me would now send me to hell. This is one of the big reasons why victims describe the process of coming forward as double victimization. First your body and then your soul. It's truly sad and very pathological from a therapeutic standpoint.

Speaking of which, in a recent letter Fr. Tom Doyle makes the point that in none of this Vatican angst resulting in these official documents, and this goes all the way back to the 1700's, is there one single statement about pastoral care for the victims. Not one, but plenty of official statements about pastoral care for the perpetrators.

In his extensive explanation Fr. Doyle also makes the case that the Vatican probably never intended these procedural documents to preclude any particular bishop from reporting cases to secular authorities:

23. According to the 1922 and 1962 documents, accusers and witnesses are bound by the secrecy obligation during and after the process but certainly not prior to the initiation of the process. There is no basis to assume that the Holy See officially envisioned this process to be a substitute for any secular legal process, criminal or civil. It is also incorrect to assume, as some have unfortunately done, that these two Vatican documents are proof of a conspiracy to hide sexually abusive priests or to prevent the disclosure of sexual crimes committed by clerics to secular authorities. The documents were written in a style and within an ecclesiastical context common for that pre-Vatican II era. Both are legal-canonical documents written in highly technical language. The English translation of Crimen Sollicitationis, though basically accurate, is also strained and awkward which can lend itself to misunderstanding.

24. To fully understand the overriding concern for secrecy one must also understand the traditional canonical concept known as the “Privilege of the Forum” “privilegium fori” which has its roots in medieval Canon Law. Basically this is a traditional privilege claimed by the institutional church whereby clerics accused of crimes were tried before ecclesiastical courts and not brought before civil or secular courts. Although this privilege is anachronistic in contemporary society, the attitude or mentality which holds clerics accountable only to the institutional church authorities is still active. This does not mean that the official Church believes that clerics accused of crimes should not to be held accountable. It means that during certain periods in history the Church has believed that it alone should have the right to subject accused clerics to a judicial process. The “privilegium fori” was included in the 1917 Code of Canon Law:

1. Clerics in all cases, whether contentious or criminal, shall be brought before an ecclesiastical judge, unless it has been legitimately provided otherwise in certain places.

2. Cardinals, Legates of the Apostolic See. Bishops, even titular ones, Abbots, Prelates Nullius, Supreme Superiors of Religious Institutes of Pontifical Right, and major officials of the Roman Curia may not be summoned before lay judges for matters pertaining to their duties without referring first to the Holy See; the same is true for others enjoying the privilege of the forum, where the Ordinary of the place [diocesan bishop] where the matter is to be tried is to be approached. The Ordinary, however, especially when a lay person is the petitioner, will not deny this permission except for just and grave reasons, all the more so when he is unable to bring about a resolution of the controversy between the parties. (Canon 119)

Fr. Doyle then states this is no longer so boldly stated in Canon Law, but the attitude is still very prevalent as can be seen in recent statements from various Vatican officials including Cardinals Herranz and Bertone and now we can add the recent Vatican campaign to exonerate Benedict XVI. This is an attitude which is part and parcel of the rot at the core of priestly theology. These guys are not above secular law, not equivalent to Jesus, and in spite of the supposed horrid penalty of 'reduction to lay status', not above the laity.

All of this is a description of a legal system designed to authenticate a particular religious fantasy--that of the clerical priesthood. It is so tenuous that to have any force in the real world it must take precedence over the verifiable reality of the devastation maintaining it wreaks on it's victims.
It seems to me the biggest threat to the Vatican is not the loss of it's moral credibility, but that the clerical abuse cover up is working as a global reality check in the minds of the laity. It's the fantasy of the sacramental priesthood itself which is going to burst. In that sense, the victims who have always been treated as the least, are truly those who saw it first. If the Vatican thinks the CDF is swamped with clerical abuse cases, wait till the fantasy of the spiritually superior priesthood comes crashing down.


  1. And the notion of the "spiritually superior priesthood" is coming down Colleen. I just read an article which reveals a sexual abuse case in Brazil of a priest in his 80's molesting 19 year old boys. It was shown on TV in Brazil. It is so pathetic and disgusting that in all of these years the Church, the priests presume this uppity, arrogant and narcissistic view of themselves and they actually imagined they could go on forever with this false image. The truth is we need not priests, we need holy people who are following Jesus Christ and teaching the Gospels in truth and in the spirit of truth.

    So, if anyone broke the "vow of silence" and everybody had to sign it, then it also meant like you say that the victim could not tell their own parents, and the pedophile had to be silent too, as did the Bishop. No one could go to the police without breaking the oath and getting excommunicated, even "for the purpose of a greater good." OUTRAGEOUS for the RCC to have anyone have to take such an oath and to have a child take such an oath is like you say, re-victimization and the threat of hell if they break silence. That's a terrible thing to do to a child.

    The whole things stinks to high heaven and John Allen's latest article is a whitewash covering Ratzinger's behind and the statements coming from the Vatican stink too. They do not want to take responsibility for their actions and blame the media and people who are upset about this, who are legitimately asking questions, who are verbal in any way about sexual abuse by priests, accusing them of looking for reasons to put the Church down or Benedict down because they have "an axe to grind." It's pathetic and a lie.

    I have a headache.

  2. The corrupt (Roman Catholic) clerical caste system is unravelling in the Western world, and a good thing too.

    I worked for the Roman Catholic church and my contract was not renewed, through no transgression of mine, and in spite of successive excellent externally facilitated appraisals. On receiving the required financial compensation, I was required to sign an oath of silence stating that I would not criticise the clergy involved. It did not stop some of the priests for whom I worked 'bad mouthing' me in the community in an effort to justify their decision - a decision taken without consultation with the community though one of them told the Archbishop that they had consulted the community representatives prior to making their decision.

    When at last clerics are accountable for their actions they, as well as us, will be better off, and there will be much less abuse of all kinds in the Roman Catholic church. I'm too old to wait around to see it happen though, and I am soon to be received into the Anglican Church.