Of secret archives

Of secret archives

The media hype of the kerfuffle over a “secret archive” in Toldeo may be a case of making more of something than is there. It seems prosecutors and the media think that there is a treasure trove of files containing a record of crimes being covered up by the diocese. That may or may not be true.

The media keep referring to the canon law that requires the existence of a secret archive of materials related to criminal offenses. But we’re not talking about civil crimes. It relates to ecclesiastical crimes, violations of canon law. That a priest violated the canonical rights of a parishioners, for example, while sensitive is hardly newsworthy or worthy of investigation by the local prosecutor.

  • True, Dom, but let me play the devil’s advocate for a moment.  It has been reported in numerous places that, during a meeting of the bishops at some time during the past few years, at least one member of the hierarchy suggested (on the record) that it might be wise to ship off any un-toward records to the apostolic nunciature’s office for safekeeping in their secret files.  What this prelate did not know, I’m sure, was the extent to which this kind of remark would later fuel a hostile media’s fear of being lied to.  One of the basics of understanding the relationship of Catholics to America is this nativist fear of popish duplicity, that Catholics aren’t real Americans, that they’re secretive and mysterious-in-a-bad-way.  “Secret files” play right into their hand.

    So now, when the media hears about a secret file, and they are given over to skepticism, we can’t blame them ENTIRELY for the problem.

  • I referred to that in the third paragraph.

    I agree that secret files can be abused, but there is definitely a need for confidential files. There are some things that should not be made public, especially those things related to the internal forum. How about woman who seek forgiveness for the sin of abortion? (I believe canon law requires that the bishop alone can dispense forgiveness for that sin.) Those files should definitely be in the secret archive.

  • Oh, I agree with you compleely on the latter.  I’m definitely guilty of speed-reading, too…..mea culpa!

  • Dom, once the matter of an abortion is resolved, why is there any reason to have any file about it at all?  As you point out, it is a matter between priest and penitent, so there is unlikely to be a third party concern.  Is there some reason the bishop would need to hold onto the information?

  • Because it is not just between priest and penitent, but bishop and penitent. There are other records that need to be kept too. For example, if a priest commits the ecclesial crime of using the confessional to engage in sin (I forget the technical term), that sort of information, including the punishment goes into the archive. If it’s not a civil crime, why should that information be open to anyone who asks? Nevertheless, a record of the crime and punishment needs to be kept, so that if he does it again, it can be taken into account.

    Those are just two examples of files that should be in a secret archive.

  • First of all, the diocese of Toledo is not claiming a privilege.  Their response to a search warrant naming Fr. Robinson was “we don’t have the file”.  Apparently, the police knew the file existed and later a lawyer used by the diocese showed up at the chancery to turn over a file.  So out of the box, the diocese showed bad faith in denying the existence of the file until presented with proof the file did exist.

    It was Aux Bishop James Quinn (Cleveland) who recklessly suggested that files be sent to Apb Montalvo on Mass. Ave., where there’s a presumption of diplomatic immunity for the nunciature.  Of course, if documents implicating a priest in a murder was handled that way, I’d demand the expulsion of the Nunicio and closing the nunciature.

    The diocese has a moral obligation to cooperate with the investigation of the ritual murder of Sr. Margaret Ann Pahl.  These “clerical errors” that keep piling up could lead to a prosecution for obstruction of justice.

  • Dom,
    Are you saying that the penitent is required to confess an abortion directly to a bishop?  I was assuming that the confession was made to a priest who then contacted the bishop for permission to absolve the penitent, in which case the priest-penitent interaction would not include the bishop directly.

    If the confession is made directly to the bishop, I can’t imagine why he would need a record of it.

    Not to mention that these “clerical errors” can lead to a perception of innate dishonesty on the part of the bishop in the minds of the laity.

    Going into this scandal I didn’t have a good opinion of bishops in general.  They seemed to be largely invisible.  They aren’t invisible any longer, and my previous poor opinion has done anything but improve.

  • I simply don’t believe that every catholic girl who gets an abortion goes to the bishop before she gets in the Holy Communion line. 

    Our abortion rates are very similar to the general population, BTW.

  • I continue to be amazed at the naivete of some Catholics. Did everyone not see the press conference by Attorney Garabedian when he got the “sex abuse” documents that didn’t exist until the court ordered them turned over. Bad record keeping?  Do you have any concept of the staff the Archdiocese has not to mention the payroll? I believe the annual budget was $4 billion dollars (before current events unfolded). And $4 billion dollars doesn’t get you a filing system- yeah right.  I’ve never walked into a Chancery, anywhere in this country that didn’t have the latest computer equipment, electronic technology and professional secretaries and staffers.  But we are to believe they were keeping documents in shoe boxes in the old pool. Puhleeze!  Paul Shanley did not abuse children for 30 years b/c of poor record keeping.  And when was the last time we saw ANYONE punished for any canonical crime committed?

  • The annual budget for the entire Archdiocesan operation was about $17 million at its peak. I don’t know where you got $4 billion.

    And there is not a massive staff. My brother was once an archdiocesan employee and I have friends who work there now. Latest computer equipment? Mary, I’ve actually worked on the archdiocese’s computers and been in their offices as an outside computer consultant (I’ve had a lot of part-time jobs) and whatever is true in other dioceses, the Archdiocese of Boston does not have the latest computer equipment and electronc technology.

    I also know people who have seen the former pool room that is now the records room. It is a disorganized mess. I don’t know where you got your information, but you are way off.

    I am not naive, but you are making assumptions.

  • According to this article http://slate.msn.com/id/2075750/

    The budget is more than $68 million. Of course this is a shell game b/c of the property owned, Churches being sold and don’t forget Cardinal Law’s capital campaign in 2002 when ONLY $200 million was raised. I read the $4 billion in the Globe.  But Domenico do you really believe that Paul Shanley et al were able to abuse children b/c of poor record keeping? If you do I think you must be the only human being alive who does.  Perhaps with all your friends in the employ of the archdiocese you have lost your ability to be objective?

  • The $68 million must include the hospitals, which really should be thought of separately. They are financially independent of the archdiocese and the funds do not commingle.

    Point me to one instance where I said that Paul Shanley and others were able to abuse because of poor recordkeeping. You should be careful of making accusations that you can’t back up.

    What I said was that sometimes files were not produced because they were often lost, not because they were being hidden.

    An old maxim says you should never attribute to malice what can be explained by incompetence.

    Sheesh, you’d think I hadn’t been writing about this for almost four years and hadn’t been highly critical of Cardinal Law and the rest of the hierarchy. But I prefer to base my criticism on what actually happened and not go making up reasons.

  • Well you stated the budget was $17 million at peak- I’ve demonstrated at least $68 million and I contend that is a low ball figure, the intention of its release being to make victims and attys believe the well is dry.  The diocese has admitted they are running an annual $10 million deficit. Now if the annual budget was $17 million that would be difficult to believe. It is difficult to believe the deficit is $10 million annually if the budget is only $68 million.  The diocese lied about priest sex abuse- and they are lying about the documents that support it. I don’t know how anyone can come to any different conclusion.  I did think of someone who is being charged with a canonical crime- Fr. Hayley in Arlington, VA. He informed on two homosexual/porno reading priests and now HE faces charges.  We have gotten into this mess by refusing to believe that children were being abused by priests and that the diocese was covering it up.  To continue on that path will be disastrous.  But if it makes you friends with the staff at the Archdiocese who am I to complain?

  • You’ve demonstrated nothing except what one online magazine article claimed.

    The annual budget for archdiocesan chancery operations was $17 million, according to the financial reports published by the archdiocese and audited independently. As I said, the $68 million includes the budget for the hospital system, which is a separate financial matter. The funds do not commingle.

    Also, the deficit is a total of $10 million, not $10 million annually. It is understandable how a $10 million deficit would rack up when your budget is $17 million and you’re income is $10 million per annum over the past couple of years.

    Mary, you obviously don’t know me and haven’t read anything I’ve written in the past four years. I’ve been one of the most vocal critics of the lying and coverup. But this post had nothing to do with that. My only point is that part of the problem that helped create the Scandalaid the archdiocese is running a $10 million ANNUAL deficit. The audit shows the deficit was $20.6 million last year” [emphasis mine]



  • I don’t believe that I ever stated or implied that the Church’s leadership are the devil’s spawn.  But ask yourself this, were those who were guilty of intentional evil, or negligence, or malfeasance punished or rewarded by the hierarchy?  You can say that for the past four years, etc etc. but then you post an article like this which suggests that the Church leadership merits the benefit of the doubt and I have to ask are you joking?  The rot must be exposed and cut away. 

  • My mistake on the deficit. Once again, I think that must reflect the combination do archdiocesan, school, parish, and hospital budgets.

    Show me a quote where I said that “the Church leadership merits the benefit of the doubt.” You can’t because I didn’t. Once again, I said you don’t have to ascribe to malice what can adequately be ascribed to incompetence.

  • “Garabedian, in his public lawsuits for 86 additional Geoghan victims, forced the archdiocese to provide him with thousands of pages of SECRET CHURCH RECORDS [emphasis mine] that documented how much Law and other bishops knew about Geoghan’s sex abuse. But even those documents were under a court-ordered confidentiality seal until a motion by the Globe prompted the trial judge, and subsequently an appellate court, to order them made public, over the objections of the church.”

    from The Boston Globe 1/31/02 article titled “Scores of Priests involved in Sex Abuse Cases: Settlements kept scope of issue out of public eye.”

    If there are SECRET CHURCH DOCUMENTS in Boston there are secret Church documents in L.A., Scranton, Springfield, Albany, etc.  They should be produced immediately and turned over to legal authorities.

  • Hours after agreeing to pay $US100 million ($128.6 million) and make public the SECRET FILES OF THE CATHOLIC [emphasis mine] archdiocese of Orange, Bishop Tod Brown knelt in prayer and asked for healing and reconciliation for the victims of sexual abuse by priests.

    from The Sydney Morning Herald Januray 5, 2005.

    Another admission of secret Church documents. I could probably find more examples but my point is that rather than accusing me of calling Church Officials the devil’s spawn is that this editorial should never have been written because you attempt to bring doubt upon the FACT that secret Church documents exist that include the crimes of pedophiles.  They must be turned over so that the criminals, eventhough they are priests and perhaps bishops can be prosecuted.