Character Assassination

by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  September 28, 2018   

Abp. Viganò: Avoiding grave harm trumps keeping professional secrets

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The former papal nuncio to the United States is emphasizing the Catholic teaching that professional secrets may be revealed if keeping them would cause grave harm.

In his second public statement in a month, Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò on Thursday cited paragraph 2491 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church to explain when it is moral to break professional secrets.

[The] purpose of any secret, including the pontifical secret, is to protect the Church from her enemies, not to cover up and become complicit in crimes committed by some of her members. ... the Catechism of the Catholic Church states (par. 2491), the seal of secrecy is not binding when very grave harm can be avoided only by divulging the truth.

Paragraph 2491 of the Catechism does teach when it's morally proper to break such secrets.

Professional secrets — for example, those of political office holders, soldiers, physicians, and lawyers — or confidential information given under the seal of secrecy must be kept, save in exceptional cases where keeping the secret is bound to cause very grave harm to the one who confided it, to the one who received it or to a third party, and where the very grave harm can be avoided only by divulging the truth.

In his recent letter, Abp. Viganò expressed that his choice to reveal particular papal secrets was, for him, the "most painful and serious decision" he's ever made in his life. The archbishop said his decision was made "during a crescendo of continual news of terrible events, with thousands of innocent victims destroyed and the vocations and lives of young priests and religious disturbed."

After much prayer and reflection, he determined that keeping silent in the face of such grave harm was morally wrong: "The silence of the pastors who could have provided a remedy and prevented new victims became increasingly indefensible, a devastating crime for the Church."

The former nuncio makes it clear that he's not talking about the secrecy surrounding the sacrament of confession, which can never be violated for any reason.

"Only the seal of confession could have justified my silence," writes Viganò.

Watch the panel discuss how keeping secrets may cause grave harm in Friday's Download—Character Assassination. This week's topics on The Download include the gay clergy network and psychological warfare, among others.

Catch The Download live Monday–Friday at 10:30 a.m. ET at Church Militant. To view every episode, sign up for a Premium subscription and receive hundreds of hours of quality Catholic content.


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