THE BLOG
01/20/2011 08:39 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Will Other Catholic Bishops Risk Eternal Damnation?

I applaud the fearlessness it must have taken for the Irish bishop who recently turned over a 1997 letter from the Vatican to the Irish Broadcasters RTF, thinking he'd face eternal damnation and excommunication for his act.

This letter was signed by the late Archbishop, Luciano Storero, Pope John Paul II's diplomat to Ireland, and addressed to Ireland's Catholic bishops, telling them not to report all suspected child abuse cases to the police.

Finally a Catholic bishop bravely stepped forward to report what has been known all too long: that the Vatican had been protecting pedophile clergy. I'm sure this bishop had sleepless nights before he found the fortitude to do the right thing. One must wonder how many other bishops and members of the Vatican's hierarchy are still having sleepless nights, while experiencing tumultuous unrest.

David Clohessy, director The Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), said, "This may be the most devastating revelation yet showing Vatican complicity in child sex crimes and cover ups. It's bad enough that Catholic officials have a secretive, slow and corrupt internal process to deal with child predators. But it's worse when Catholic officials thwart an open, proven and effective external process to deal with child predators."

As a former orphan and survivor of devastating clergy abuse, I appeal to U.S. Bishops and members of the Vatican's hierarchy to also find the courage to come forward and disclose cover ups and the names of predator clergy and expunge the secrecy.

The afterword in my memoir, The Unbreakable Child, was written by William F. McMurry, the expert legal advocate for abuse victims. McMurry's powerful afterword, below, supports the specifics stated in the bishop's letter and addresses the Church's secrecy.

In 1922 the Vatican sealed the fate of thousands of American children when it issued a secret written order requiring every Roman Catholic Bishop to keep the sexual abuse of children by clergy a Pontifical Secret. This secret decree, known as The Pontifical Secret, also made it a crime for priests to commit sexual abuse of minors.

Everyone with knowledge of child sexual abuse accusations, including bishops and archbishops, was forbidden from telling anyone outside of the Vatican's Congregation for the Doctrine of Faith. This Congregation, or administrative department of the Holy See, was charged with the responsibility of prosecuting such crimes within the Roman Catholic Church. This order, known as Supremae S. Congregationis S. Officii, is the official legislative text issued by the Congregation of the Holy Office and was approved by Pope Pius XI. The document is a reflection and written manifestation of the longstanding policies and directives of the Holy See regarding clerical sexual abuse, which impose this extreme level of secrecy not only on those within the Church who were to prosecute such cases but also on the document itself.

In 1964 the Vatican issued Crimen Sollicitationis (its title refers to the crime of solicitation of penitents in the confessional). While virtually identical to Supremae, this order replaced the 1922 directive and required each bishop to take an oath of secrecy under penalty of eternal damnation and excommunication.

However, by the year 1964 virtually every one of the United States had criminal laws in place making it a crime to fail to report to law enforcement authorities known or suspected child sexual abuse. Notwithstanding the criminal laws of their state, the bishops feared eternal damnation more than they feared the unlikely prosecution for their failure to report abuse. These Vatican directives explain the choreographed movement of abusive priests from one parish to the next in an effort to avoid scandal and to fulfill their oath of secrecy.

When Kim was placed in the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth Orphanage in bucolic Anchorage, Kentucky (1960) there was no chance her abuse or the serial sexual and physical abuse of hundreds of other children would ever be discovered outside the institution. Kim's story is a grim but consistent account of the young lives of countless Catholic children unfortunate enough to be abandoned by society. The Vatican's doctrine of secrecy and the systematic silencing of those who would have reported these crimes have created an economic burden on our society...

The Vatican's secrecy is the Roman Catholic Church's cannonball cartouche that has been used to protect serial predator clergy who've committed unspeakable acts against the world's most precious gifts -- our children. Our children should never be silenced to protect the secrets of a harmful culture.