First of all, I would like to greet and thank all those who, with their participation, have made possible the realization of this important occasion of confrontation and expansion of knowledge. From those who have been involved in the numerous contacts, to those who will continue to take care of the translation of the speeches.
A special greeting and thank you goes to the victims, the survivors and their families who, with the courage that I have witnessed, continue to contribute to ensuring that what they have suffered will never be repeated.
The first reflection on which I would like to involve you concerns the emphasis with which it was propagandized at the end of 2019 by news agencies close to the Vatican the decision of Pope Bergoglio to abolish, after a good forty-five years, the pontifical secret on serious crimes committed by Catholic religious, including the rape of minors.
In fact, it has been since 1974, with the pontificate of Paul VI, that absolute secrecy was imposed on all members of ecclesiastical authority regarding particular pontifical documents, including the unconditional prohibition of access to evidence concerning cases of sexual abuse of priests kept in the archives of Vatican departments and dioceses. However, since this is actually an order updated in 2001 by the will of Pope Wojtyla, signed by the then Monsignors Joseph Ratzinger and Tarcisio Bertone, I think it is interesting to learn from accredited sources on this ugly subject what exactly the mysterious “papal secret” is: that wall made of compulsory silence about religious pedophiles and/or lureers in the confessional, as we read in the appendix of the book “Emanuela Orlandi – La Verità: dai Lupi Grigi alla banda della Magliana”, published in 2008 by Baldini-Castoldi-Dalai, written by the acute journalist Pino Nicotri, published in full on micromega-online.
It must be acknowledged that today’s rescriptum, at least in the abstract, represents the possibility of being able to free oneself from the wall of obligatory silence for all those involved, or who can be involved, in canonical criminal proceedings – complainants, victims, witnesses, etc. – and that this is the only way to be able to do so. It would seem that this reform, and I repeat, it would seem, could even concretize that transparency that too many times in the past has failed to conceal the repetition of violence against children with the criminal participation of the hierarchies and in particular of the bishops.
Few people will have failed to notice that the Catholic media, in announcing the beginning of a new era, were concerned to repeatedly reassure the community of the Catholic faithful and its pastors around the world that, by the express will of the Pope, the new rules would never, ever be able to undermine the secret learned during confession and that the mandatory silence would remain absolute and unassailable.
Moreover, shortly before, in May 2019, Pope Francis with the Motu proprio Vos estis lux mundi had introduced into the canonical order new procedural norms to combat sexual abuse and ensure that bishops and religious superiors would be held accountable for their actions by making it mandatory for clerics, religious men and women to promptly report (denounce) to the ecclesiastical authority all news of abuse of which they become aware, as well as any omissions and cover-ups in the handling of cases, but, again, with effect only within the Vatican’s territorial jurisdiction.
Since these are laws, norms and instructions that concern a very circumscribed territorial sphere, conceived for a unique reality in the world composed of priests and religious, with very few children, it is impossible to be convinced that, despite the good intentions of its legislator, the objectives set can be reached, despite the fact that the lack of collaboration between civil and ecclesiastical authorities has been globally ascertained.
On closer inspection, it is not only a question of this, because with his reform the Pontiff implicitly addresses to all foreign states the legitimate claim of autonomy of the right of the governing state to commit itself to healing the domestic scourge of pedophilia.
It must be acknowledged that the purpose of the concern with which the protection of the secret learnt during confession was intended was clearly political because, in order to safeguard the image of the Church in the world, it was necessary to dissuade those forces sensitive to human rights within other States that could have made operative in their respective legal systems norms to ensure the identification of priests and their protectors responsible for the solicitation and sexual violence perpetrated on children.
In fact, already in the summer of 2017, the absolute obligation was called into question and made known by the laws of countries such as India and Australia, which would have liked to impose on priests confessors to report to public authority cases of abuse revealed by penitents. The results were very poor and the coactive effect of the new rules, promulgated with enormous delay, despite the fact that the spread of child abuse in the world had exposed the responsibility of the diocesan curia where the same authority has too often taken the direction, or offered cover to concealment and deception, helping to encourage the irrepressible urge of pedophile priests to replicate the violence.
In any case, for them, especially for the bishops, who are concerned to present the facade of good governance of the diocese where they are installed, they put in the background to get away with the safety of boys and girls, unlike in the past, at least in theory they can no longer count on the obligation of subordinates – priests, nuns, brothers, etc.. – to have to keep their mouths shut, whatever the predictable devastating consequences of abuse.
But, in fact, despite the efforts made by the Vatican legislature, the obscene representation of this situation remains threateningly active and in many ways still unchecked, thanks to the consolidated influence of the function assumed over the centuries by the bishops both in the hierarchy of the Church and in the community of the faithful.
In addition to this situation, all dioceses have started to set up diocesan help-desks to assist victims of sexual abuse by clergy, not only in terms of listening to them, but also to protect their rights and provide psychological support. There remain, therefore, many perplexities and grey areas, and therefore Rete l’Abuso has deemed it necessary to investigate the effective observance of constitutional guarantees and international conventions for the protection of victims and their families.
However, it should be kept in due consideration that, despite the good intentions of Pope Francis and the promulgators, these initiatives do not have the requirements of efficiency to stem the abuses of criminal parish priests, unlike how the ordinary judiciary could do it both on the operational side, of technical specialization and means of investigation and coordination that can be used by police personnel. The most critical problems for the civil authorities and for the police forces arise from the scarce or non-existent collaboration, at the limits of the concurrent hypothesis of reticence or personal aiding and abetting, in the reconstruction of the abusive conduct on the part of the persons informed about the facts, who, availing themselves of the right not to testify or to make available documents regarding what is held or known by reason of their ministry, do not contribute to the identification of the presumed culprits.
Certainly with better formulated or integrated norms, far more satisfactory results could be achieved, especially in terms of prevention. In any case, the distinction in the efficiency and qualitative reliability of civil justice, with all the known limits, is indisputable if compared to the culture and customs of the Church-institution and to the absurd claim that it should be left free to deal with problems in its own way, especially because in this framework is inscribed pedophilia as its obscene secret appendix, considered – and it could not be otherwise – a sin against morality in violation of the sixth commandment of the Decalogue, rather than a serious crime against the person.
In this regard, I cannot help but recall the reflection made by Slavoj Zizek, in response to the reluctance of the Church, not having to limit itself to the fact that we are faced with horrendous crimes and that, by not cooperating fully with the investigations initiated by the prosecutors, it becomes an accomplice.
“The Church as such, as an institution, must also be investigated with regard to the way in which it systematically creates the conditions for such crimes to occur. To argue that it should be the only one to deal with the crimes of pedophilia that occur within its ranks is problematic not only from a legal point of view, since this would imply a kind of extraterritorial right on its part even for common crimes that fall under criminal law; as if the very fact that these scandals have broken out is not proof that it is incapable of solving them.”
The Italian State, with the persistent inertia of the executive and politics, seems to pretend not to know, despite the raging of the phenomenon and the warnings addressed to it by the UN in the sessions of January 2019 with the participation of Rete L’Abuso and its complaint, having instead to react promptly and prevent, with the introduction of new rules, that the criminal and civil judiciary would be robbed by a foreign state what the Constitution requires it to guarantee: the psychophysical protection of boys and girls.
Our penal system suffers heavily from the intolerable denial of the state’s right to effectively repress crimes of pedophilia, especially ecclesiastical. Strictly speaking, the executive branch could be held responsible even for the violation of international conventions and provisions regarding the protection of the rights of minors. Consequently, legislative initiatives must be taken with extreme urgency to adapt Italian legislation to the pressing demand for intervention, because a structural element of justice, especially when the victims are boys and girls, is like a time-dependent disease that attacks their lives that must be eradicated soon and definitively.
Following is the simple and clear proposal, perhaps preceded by a parliamentary commission of inquiry on the subject, but without any need to put hands on the Concordat between the Italian State and the Catholic Church, keeping intact the sacramental seal.
In practice, the norm ex art. 364 c.p., limited to crimes against the personality of the State, should only be integrated for the reasons stated by inserting the crimes indicated in the 10 articles as named, shown in italics and highlighted in bold. There would be no antinomy either with the other norms of the penal code or conflict with the provisions of the entire system.
Art. 364 c.p. FAILURE TO REPORT A CRIME BY THE CITIZEN
The citizen, who, having had notice of a crime against the personality of the State (241-313) for which the law establishes life imprisonment, as well as the crimes of sexual violence against a minor (art. 609 bis, 609 ter, 609 octies), sexual acts with a minor (art. 609 quater) when prosecuted ex officio, corruption of minors (art.609 quinquies), solicitation of minors (art.609 undicies), child prostitution (art.600 bis), child pornography and possession of pornographic material (art.600 ter, 600 quater and 600 quater1) does not immediately report it to the Authority indicated in article 361 is punished with imprisonment of up to one year and a fine of between €103 and €1032.
Nothing more or different.
I remain available for any questions.
Many thanks for your attention and good continuation