Today we are witnessing a real “cultural and moral implosion” that is “oblivious – if not hostile – to God and becomes incapable of recognizing and respecting, in every area and at every level, the essential elements of human existence and, with them, the very life of the Church”. This is the starting point of a statement released today by the Apostolic Penitentiary on the importance of the internal forum and the inviolability of the sacramental seal”. According to the document, “a ‘craving’ for news has spread in recent decades, even regardless of its reliability and usefulness, so much so that it seems that the ‘world of communication’ wants to ‘supplant’ reality, both influencing its perception, and manipulating its understanding”. According to the Apostolic Penitentiary, “the very ecclesial community, who lives in the world sometimes following its criteria, is unfortunately not immune to” this “thirst” for scandals. “Even among believers, valuable energy is often used to look for ‘news’ – or real ‘scandals’ – that suit the taste of a part of the public opinion, with goals and objectives that have certainly nothing to do with the theandric nature of the Church”, the document reads: “All this severely undermines the proclamation of the Gospel to all creatures and the needs of the mission”. “We must humbly recognize that sometimes even the clergy, and its most senior members, are not immune to this trend”. The text laments that “all too often all kinds of information are disclosed, even relating to the most confidential and private spheres, which inevitably affect the Church’s life, giving rise to – or fuelling – rash judgements, causing unlawful and irreparable damage to the good reputation of others, and infringing the right of each person to have their intimacy protected”.
In this context, according to the Apostolic Penitentiary, there emerges a “negative prejudice” against the Catholic Church, “whose existence is culturally presented and socially re-thought, on the one hand, in the light of the tensions that may occur inside her very hierarchy and, on the other, in the wake of the recent abuse scandals, horribly perpetrated by some members of the clergy”. “This prejudice, oblivious to the true nature of the Church, to her true history, and to the real, beneficial impact that she has always had, and still has, on people’s lives, is sometimes reflected in the unjustifiable ‘claim’ that the Church herself, in certain matters, must conform her own legal order to the civil systems of the states in which she finds herself living, as the only possible ‘guarantee of fairness and righteousness’”, the text states. Hence the need to “reaffirm the importance of and to promote a better understanding of those concepts, typical of ecclesial and social communication, which today seem increasingly ‘strange’ to public opinion and sometimes even to civil legal systems”, the text reads: “the sacramental seal, the inherent confidentiality of the non-sacramental internal forum, professional secrecy, and the criteria and limits of every other communication”.