Friday, November 13, 2009

Depends on what the meaning of "secret"

Annysa Johnson reported in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Archbishop Weakland's testimony on our Archdiocese's secret archives. He
dismissed the notion as "antique" and "Old Testament" in a deposition last year.

"I've heard about it, but I've never seen those files, and I don't know if the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has such things," Weakland said in response to a question about "sub secreto or confidential files."

That appears to contradict earlier testimony by Weakland in a 1993 deposition in which he acknowledged the existence of such files and newly released archdiocesan documents - including one addressed to Weakland - that reference the archives.

The second commenter to this earlier post says,
The Vatican has 'secret archives' which are not secret at all (with an online link no less). About the meaning of secret in this context:

The commenter indicates that "secret" in this context is a misnomer when applied to something known to exist. That's the first point of the Journal Sentinel article, that Archbishop Weakland appears to have given contradictory, or equivocal, testimony about the existence of such files.

The commenter's linked explanation concludes its historical review,
It is in this sense that the Vatican Secret Archives has to be interpreted even today, because it is the private archive of the Pontiff, over which only he himself exercises the supreme jurisdiction.

That's the second point of the Journal Sentinel article, the issue of just how secret in the sense of confidential these files are. "He [Archdiocesan spokesman Jerry Topczewski] said the archdiocese has opened the files to civil authorities in the past." If he means voluntarily as a matter of policy, that's one thing. If he means in response to the threat of a subpoena, in response to a subpoena, or in response to a court order after an unsuccessful attempt to quash a subpoena, that's another.
The Rev. Phillip J. Brown, who teaches canon law at the Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C., said he prefers "confidential" to "secret," and he questioned whether the church can be compelled to turn over documents contained there in court.

It's probably easier to convince a judge to compel this after a former Archbishop has, under oath, both admitted and later denied the existence of such documents.

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