Statement on the Vatican Announcement Regarding Pontifical Secret in Cases of Sexual Abuse

Bishop James V. Johnston, D.D., Bishop of the Diocese of Kansas City- St. Joseph has issued the following statement:

“In an ongoing effort of greater transparency, maintaining the dignity of each individual, and working towards a path of restorative justice, the announcement made today by His Holiness, Pope Francis, is a welcomed step in the Church’s ongoing efforts of reform regarding the sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable adults.

The removal of pontifical secrecy for these cases better clarifies the professionalism necessary to guarantee security, integrity, and confidentiality, not secrecy as commonly understood today, by appropriate sharing of information with those involved and civil authorities.

Much like our commitment to cooperate with civil authorities, the Vatican’s announcement helps to ensure that better cooperation and improved transparency be carried out throughout the broader, universal Church.

Our Diocese continues to be vigilant in our efforts to prevent clergy sexual abuse as well as accompanying victims and survivors on their journey of healing and justice. “

One way to understand “pontifical secret”:

Pontifical secret is a long standing rule of confidentiality protecting sensitive information, processes and rights regarding a wide variety of means of governance of the universal Church. The pontifical secret is understood as similar to “classified” or “confidential” status common to companies or civil governments.

Link to Vatican Instruction On the Confidentiality of Legal Proceedings text:

Link to Vatican explanation on Meaning of Confidentiality and Duty to Report:


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September 28, 2020
The Diocese of Kansas City ~ St. Joseph