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Pope Francis Lifts Pontifical Secret From Legal Proceedings of Abuse Trials of Clerics

VATICAN CITY — Pope Francis declared Tuesday that the pontifical secret will no longer apply in cases of accusations and trials involving abuse of minors or vulnerable persons, and in cases of possession of child pornography by clerics.

With the instruction published Dec. 17, “On the Confidentiality of Legal Proceedings,” Pope Francis intends “to cancel in these cases the subjection to what is called the ‘pontifical secret’ bringing back instead the ‘level’ of confidentiality, dutifully required to protect the good reputation of the people involved,” according to Bishop Juan Ignacio Arrieta, secretary of the Pontifical Council for Legislative Texts.

The pontifical secret, also sometimes called papal secrecy, is a rule of confidentiality protecting sensitive information regarding the governance of the universal Church. It is similar to the “classified” or “confidential” status common in companies or civil governments.

In the new instruction, Pope Francis said the pontifical secret will also no longer bind those working in offices of the Roman Curia to confidentiality on other offenses if committed in conjunction with child abuse or child pornography.

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