Pope Renames Vatican Secret Archives

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by William Mahoney, Ph.D.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  October 29, 2019   

Former seminary professor: 'Just another PR move'

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VATICAN CITY (ChurchMilitant.com) - With his own history of secrecy and cover-up, Pope Francis is renaming the Vatican Secret Archives to sound more inviting. 

Pope Francis issued a motu proprio ― an official act done without formal request from another party ― titled "For the Change of the Name of the Vatican Secret Archive to the Vatican Apostolic Archive" on Oct. 22.

The pope states his motivation for issuing the letter:

Requested in recent years by some esteemed prelates, as well as by my closest collaborators, and having also listened to the opinion of the Superiors of the same Vatican Secret Archive, with this my Motu proprio I decide that:

From now on the present Vatican Secret Archive, without prejudice to its identity, its structure and its mission, should be called the Vatican Apostolic Archive.

The pope provided some history of the Vatican archives that evolved from the private library of the popes and underwent various names such as Archivum Novum (New Archives) and Archivum Apostolicum (Apostolic Archives) before being called Archivum Secretum (Secret Archives) some time around the middle of the 17th century ― the earliest attestation being in 1646.


The pope explained his reason for the recent change and implicit desire for a more positive nuance:

With the progressive semantic changes that have however occurred in modern languages and in the cultures and social sensibilities of different nations, to a greater or lesser extent, the term Secretum in relation to the Vatican Archive began to be misunderstood, to be colored with ambiguous, even negative nuances. 

Having lost the true meaning of the term secretum and instinctively associating its value with the concept expressed by the modern word "secret," in some areas and environments, even those of a certain cultural importance, this term has taken on the prejudicial meaning of secret, as in not to be revealed and reserved for a few. 

This is entirely the opposite of what the Vatican Secret Archive has always been and intends to be, which ― as my holy predecessor Paul VI said ― preserves "echoes and vestiges" of the passage of the Lord in history (Teachings of Paul VI, I, 1963, p. 614). And the Church "is not afraid of history but, rather, she loves it, and would like to love it more and better, as God loves it!" (Address to the Officials of the Vatican Secret Archives, 4 March 2019: L'Osservatore Romano, 4-5 March 2019, p. 6).

Secrecy and Cover-Up

Church Militant spoke with a priest and former seminary professor who preferred to remain anonymous.

"Although Pope Francis renamed the Vatican Secret Archives, it would be foolish for the faithful to imagine the files kept in these archives will be readily available to the public, any more than the actual conversations of participants in the recent Amazonian Synod were made public," he said.

Father then talked about this renaming as a public relations maneuver, especially in light of the pope's own history of silence and secrecy: 

Francis' renaming of the archives with a less negative name is just that, nothing more. Same flavor, different name. New and improved? Hardly! The same flavored vanilla ice cream, but with a less banal name. It's now Superduper Vanilla!  It’s highly improbable that Pope Francis, the pope who has remained silent on Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò's open letter for more than a year, will readily divulge anything of importance in internal letters, emails and phone calls. This is just another PR move by a pontiff sorely in need of some good PR.   

In an interview with The Washington Post published June 10, Abp. Viganò revealed that Pope Francis did not act on his knowledge of the Vatican's young seminarians being sexually abused — indicative of a cover-up history extending back to Francis' time as a bishop in Argentina.

Jorge Mario Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) was archbishop of Buenos Aires from 1998-2013 and president of the Argentine bishops' conference from 2005-2011. 

When Church officials in Europe and the United States began addressing the the clergy sex abuse crisis, Bergoglio stayed silent about the crisis in Argentina, never releasing lists of accused priests, apologies to victims or policies for handling abuse during his tenure.

One of the more gruesome clergy sex abuse cover-ups that the pope has failed to address involved the molestation and rape of deaf and mute children at different locations of the Provolo Institute in Argentina (La Plata and Mendoza) and Italy (Verona).

Regarding this case, Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, said: "The Church failed them abysmally. The pope ignored them, the police responded. It's a clear example of the tragedy that keeps playing out."

One of those pedophile priests, Fr. Eliseo Pirmati, was seen freely wandering the streets of Verona, Italy, in mid-June. 

To date, the pope has done nothing about Pirmati and countless other clergy sex abusers. 

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