The next few months may prove to be very interesting — and damning — for the Catholic Church. The courts are poised to crack open a huge trove of church files, files that document the worst behavior of some of its priests, from child rape to murder. This facet of Catholic culture which insists on preserving every record, which was historically useful in preserving records of the past, is about to bite them in the butt, hard.
Why did the church hold on to decades-old evidence of its priests’ sins?
The explanation lies in centuries of Catholic Church history and is a tale involving secret betrothals, scandal, even a murder or two. Since the time of the Enlightenment, the Catholic Church has maintained two sets of records: one for the mundane and a second "secret archive" for matters of a sensitive nature. The cache — known as sub secreto files, Canon 489 files, confidential files or C-files — was to be kept under lock and key, only for the eyes of the bishop and his trusted few.
After the files became known to prosecutors and plaintiff’s lawyers, the American justice system has pried open the doors to an archive long kept sealed. Thousands of additional pages are set to become public in coming months, as more than a dozen Catholic orders — Salesians, Claretians, Vincentians and others — prepare to bare their own secrets pursuant to agreements with victims. L.A. County Superior Court Judge Emilie Elias could set the date for their release at a hearing Tuesday.
We may be about to get something as electrifying to the US as the Cloyne report was to Ireland. Poor Bill Donohue is going to be wearing out his fax machine.