By Rev. Michael X., J.C.L.
For centuries, the mere mention of any violation of a "Secret of the Holy Office" was held to be something nefas — evil — abhorrent even to the imagination on the part of any true servant of the Vicar of Christ on Earth laboring in the Roman Curia. Then comes along Abp. Carlo Maria Viganò, seasoned Vatican diplomat and former papal nuncio to the United States, who, in one fell swoop of penning his testimony, has done the unthinkable: apparently violate not once, but repeatedly the oath of pontifical secrecy he was solemnly administered to observe when he first assumed office in the Secretariat of State.
The question now is, can Viganò be prosecuted successfully in a court of law for what he and many say was such needed action, but what others would argue constitutes the nefarious crime of periurium — perjury?
To the knowledge of ecclesiastical historians, never before has such a high-ranking former papal legate of the Roman Pontiff divulged so many sensitive state secrets to so many people in such great detail in so short a period of time. The repercussions of Abp. Viganò's actions were not just immediate in effect but are long-lasting in consequence. Many other dipendenti of the Roman Curia have knowledge of many, many things pertaining to their colleague office-holders.
The oath of pontifical secrecy that Abp. Viganò, as a member of the Secretariat of State of the Holy See and its diplomatic corps, has taken is the following [draft translation from Latin]:
I, standing before His Eminence the cardinal secretary of state, having touched the sacrosanct Gospels of God, promise that I will faithfully observe the pontifical secret in causes and matters which are to be treated under the same secret, such that in no manner whatsoever, under any pretext, either for a greater good, or for a most urgent and most grave reason, permit myself to violate the aforesaid secret.
I promise to observe the secret, as referenced above, even in causes and matters that have been completed, for which such a secret is imposed. Whereas if in some case it should happen that an occasion bring me to have a doubt about the obligation of the aforesaid secret, I will interpret [it] in favor of the same secret. In like manner, I know that a transgressor of this kind of secret commits a grave sin.
So help me God, and these His Holy Gospels, which I touch with my own hands.
According to art. 36, § 1 and § 2 of the Vatican's General Regulation of the Roman Curia, all those who work in the Roman Curia are bound to observe pontifical secrecy regarding any matter of which knowledge they gain by reason of their service of the Holy See.
Does this mean that Abp. Viganò necessarily committed a mortal sin and canonical crime(s) for his having violated pontifical secrecy?
The patron saint of moral theologians and Doctor of the Church, St. Alphonsus de Liguori, has written the following opinions in his magnum opus, his Theologia Moralis [draft translation]:
One may manifest a committed secret [secretum commissum], at least without grave sin: … 4°. Out of a just reason, namely if observing the secret might lead to damnum commune [harm to the common good] … because in this case, the order of charity postulates that it may be revealed: wherefore even if you might have taken an oath, in this case, you may divulge [the committed secret]. ... [III, 970] No one is bound by a secret, even should it have been promised by oath, when the secret leads to damnum commune [VI, 698].
"Common good" is the highest good of all, that inuring to the republic, or in ecclesiastical equivalence, the bonum ecclesiae.
In order to escape canonical liability for having violated the pontifical secret, and this multiple times, as it is being alleged by Cdl. Pietro Parolin, Abp. Viganò would have to show that he committed only apparent, not true perjury, due to the supreme need to protect harm to the bonum commune ecclesiae, the common good of the Church.
In this testimony, Viganò writes:
These homosexual networks, which are now widespread in many dioceses, seminaries, religious orders, etc. act under concealment of secrecy and lies with the power of octopus tentacles, and strangle innocent victims and priestly vocations, and are strangling the entire Church. … And how many other evil pastors is Francis still continuing to prop up in their active destruction of the Church! [my emphasis]
Provided that Abp. Viganò could prove the veracity of the above to the judges of the Tribunal of the Vatican City State or Commission of the Secretariat of State competent to adjudicate the alleged crimes for which he could be prosecuted, the former ambassador stands a very good chance, at least theoretically, of being able to escape punishment for his having risked everything, including his own spiritual salvation, in defense of the common good of the Church.