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DignityUSA Applauds Lifting of Pontifical Secrecy in Sex Abuse Cases

December 17, 2019. Nearly 19 years after The Boston Globe’s explosive reporting on the extent of clergy sexual abuse and episcopal cover up sparked similar investigations around the world, Pope Francis has ordered an end to “pontifical secrecy.” These measures prevented reporting most abuse allegations to police or other civil authorities, and often imposed silence on victims receiving settlements from Catholic dioceses.

“Today, Pope Francis has taken a significant step in putting the victims and survivors of clergy sex abuse at the center of this scandal, where they should have been since the beginning,” said Marianne Duddy-Burke, Executive Director of DignityUSA. DignityUSA is the world’s oldest organization of Catholics committed to justice, equality and full inclusion of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer and intersex people in the church and society, and has consistently protested the church’s handling of sexual abuse.

“By finally conceding that civil authorities are the proper investigators of sexual abuse claims and ending compulsory silence on the part of victims, the Pope is acknowledging that Church officials, from the local level to the Vatican, need to be more transparent and accountable,” continued Duddy-Burke. “This will finally give those most directly impacted some sense they will be heard, and that their experience matters more than the preservation of the very institution that harmed them.”

Duddy-Burke noted that many LGBTQI people are among those abused by priests over the decades. “Many LGBTQI victims who’ve told me their stories have said they felt their abuser knew the secret they were carrying as children and used that knowledge either in pretending to help them, or to ensure their silence. These priests reinforced the shame these young people were experiencing and made coming out even more difficult. We have even heard of diocesan officials threatening to make victims’ sexual orientation or gender identity public when reports were filed. Had civil authorities been involved earlier on, this compounding of the abuse might have been prevented.”

Duddy-Burke concluded, “DignityUSA urges the Vatican and all Catholic dioceses around the world to implement these new policies immediately and consistently. That will be essential to ensure that victims everywhere have the best opportunity for just resolutions.”