Now German Justice Minister Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger has also reached out to the Vatican: Italy's media cite her accusation that the church leadership itself is obstructing the investigation of sexual abuse. At the same time, ecclesiastical criminal law in no way claims to take the place of state jurisdiction.
The minister said the Curia is drawing such cases to itself and placing them under strict secrecy; spoke of a "wall of silence". This becomes a bad word in the Italian translation: omerta – the Mafia's sinister duty of honor not to disclose internal secrets to the death. But the "secretum pontificium" (papal secret) by no means means means that the church shields itself from legal investigations with the methods of the "honorable society". The ministerial misunderstanding is rooted in Vatican guidelines for dealing with "particularly serious offenses" (Latin: delicta graviora) within canon law proceedings. Pope John Paul II. ied its own decree on the subject in 2001 under the title "De delictis gravioribus". It concerns offenses that are especially sacred to the Catholic Church – the Eucharist and confession. In addition, the decree also mentions violations of the priestly commandment of chastity involving minors. In all such cases, the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith must be involved in view of the grave canonical consequences that the perpetrators face. Such proceedings are under the aforementioned "secretum pontificium". This duty of confidentiality is intended to guarantee the greatest possible protection for victims and witnesses and to protect the accused from public prejudgement and damage to their reputation. The discretion goes so far that the name of a plaintiff is disclosed to the accused or his lawyer only with his express consent. The rumor that the decree and its implementing regulations – signed by the then prefect of the faith, Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger – are secret documents is self-refuting: The regulations can be found on the Vatican's website, albeit only in the original Latin.
"Do not hinder the course of civil action" Another misunderstanding concerns the reference to "criminal offenses" in the decree. Of course, this only concerns violations of canon law and sanctions. Whether someone records and publishes a confessional conversation is a trivial matter for secular courts, but a serious offense for the Church. However, if a clergyman commits an offense against an altar boy, he risks two criminal proceedings: one ecclesiastical, which could cost him his job, and one secular, which could possibly land him in prison. By no means does ecclesiastical criminal law claim to take the place of state jurisdiction. The guidelines of the German Bishops' Conference of 2002 also stipulate that in proven cases of sexual abuse, self-reporting is advised or the public prosecutor's office is informed directly. The bishops in the United States are laying down even stricter rules: After their experience there with clergy abuse, they pledge to work hand in hand with secular investigative authorities. "The necessary observance of canonical norms within the Church is in no way aimed at hindering the course of any civil action," the U.S. norms approved by the Vatican state.
Obligation to report according to R The internal church procedure has also intensified with "De delictis gravioribus": the assignment to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith underlines how seriously the Vatican takes the abuse cases. The obligation to report to Rome is intended to ensure that such events are not covered up at the local level, that perpetrators and victims cannot be intimidated, covered up or otherwise influenced by ministry superiors or pastors. In addition, the norm, which applies worldwide, ensures that incidents in countries where sex with minors is not prosecuted by the state are at least prosecuted under canon law. In order to ensure better processing, John Paul II doubled. with its decree, also extended the statute of limitations for sexual offenses to ten years, and for minors to ten years from reaching the age of majority. The "papal secret" is supposed to allow an unbiased investigation for the part that concerns internal church discipline – and not to protect guilty persons or their superiors.