On the heels of a cause célèbre in Ireland over a 1997 Vatican letter expressing doubts about “mandatory reporter” policies on sex abuse, another piece of Vatican correspondence has come to light, this one from 1984 and addressed to the then-bishop of Tucson, Ariz. It insists that “under no conditions” are the personnel files of a priest accused of misconduct (in this instance, not sexual abuse) to be turned over to civil lawyers.
The 1984 missive from the Congregation for the Clergy, then headed by Cardinal Silvio Oddi, to Tucson Bishop Manuel Moreno was released by BishopAccountability.org, and is being cited as another example of a Vatican policy against cooperation with police and prosecutors.
Anyone who thinks these two letters are the end of the line is in denial. Diocesan archives all over the world are undoubtedly stuffed with letters from Vatican officials advising bishops to protect the confidentiality of church records, and as lawyers, reporters and activists continue to dig, more will come to light.