By Fr Felipe Herrera-Espaliat and Sr Nina Benedikta Krapić, VMZ
Is there room for secrecy in a Church that has set out to be more transparent, especially to prevent all kinds of abuse? Fr Jordi Pujol and Fr Rolando Montes de Oca, who are experts in communication and canon law, have written a book that seeks to provide answers.
Their book is entitled “Transparency and Secrecy in the Catholic Church”. It was published by the Latin American Council of Ceprome (Interdisciplinary Research and Training Center for the Protection of Minors), and was presented by Cardinal Sean O’Malley on Saturday, 23 September in Rome.
Cardinal O’Malley, President of the Pontifical Commission for the Protection of Minors, acknowledged the work of authors, noting the obvious need for communication and a legal mindset to go hand in hand in dealing with abuse.
“If we are not transparent, we will never deserve the trust of our people and never be able to really deal with this terrible crisis and evil in our Church and our society, which is sexual abuse”, urged cardinal.
Misuse of transparency and secrecy
The authors deeply appreciate the Church’s willingness to grow in transparency, but they also warn of the harm that can be caused to victims by overexposure that invades intimate and private lives. They even assert that, from the point of view of the accused, an unrestricted application of transparency could end up harming the principle of the presumption of innocence.
Pujol and Montes de Oca also criticize the ecclesiastical secrecy that so often hinders truth and justice for those who have been violated through abuse. In fact, they assure that at the communicative level secrecy cannot be a common practice. However, they recall how a correct use of secrecy protects the right to good reputation and privacy. Thus, they recognize how delicate is the balance that must be achieved in order not to excess transparency or secrecy in dealing with cases of abuse in the Church.
“There are abuses on both sides. There is an abuse of secrecy and there is an abuse of transparency by those who want to show everything in an almost obscene way”, says Pujol.
In order to protect vulnerable people, particularly minors, Pujol highlights a judgment of prudence regarding the information. It’s governing the information “in such a way that the person is at the center,” explains Pujol. He adds that the starting point should be transparency, openness to information, “and just in several cases that we are protecting specially protected human goods, then we establish their secrecy for that”.
Book as a tool for communicators
The book has practical aspects that can serve as an aid for discernment and communication in cases of abuse, thus becoming a useful tool not only for bishops, but also for those who lead the communications of a diocese, religious community, schools or any ecclesial entity.
This work by Pujol and Montes de Oca, published by PPC, is added to an extensive collection of Ceprome texts that address the phenomenon of abuse in the Church in an interdisciplinary way, providing psychological, canonical, legal, pastoral and formative aspects, among others.
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