A couple of lawyers seeking millions from the Church in abuse cases are waving about a 40-year-old document they say is the Vatican’s blueprint for covering up scandal. It might make nice newspaper copy and a dramatic piece of evidence in trial, but from what I’m hearing, it’s something less than that.
I haven’t seen the document, but those who have and who some expertise say that it isn’t as clear cut as the lawyers make it out to be. It’s primarily a document on what to do in case a priest engages in sex with a penitent he is also seeing for confession. Because of the sensitive matters involved in confession—and because of the seal of the confessional—such matters must be handled delicately and with secrecy. It’s not about child abuse, but about sexual sin between adults.
“The penitent must denounce the accused priest ... within a month to the (bishop) ... and the confessor must, burdened seriously in conscience, warn the penitent of this duty,” the document states.
Without seeing the whole document it’s impossible to determine whether the lawyers—who aren’t unbiased—are interpreting it correctly. Moreover, it’s unclear whether it’s real or a forgery, since the canon lawyers I’ve heard from so far have never heard of it.