1. Crimen Sollicitationis
In 1922, Pope Pius XI issued an Instruction titled Crimen Sollicitationis.94 The Instruction,
amended in 1962, contained the following directive: “to be kept carefully in the secret archive of
the Curia for internal use. Not to be published or augmented with commentaries.”95 The Instruction
was primarily focused on the crime of solicitation.96 Solicitation occurs when a priest attempts to
seduce a penitent.97 But the Instruction also addressed other crimes, “de crimine pessimo”—the
most obscene crimes a cleric can commit.98 A crimen pessimum is “any external obscene act,
gravely sinful, perpetrated or attempted by a cleric in any way with pre-adolescent children of
either sex or with brute animals.”99 The Instruction laid out a set of procedural norms for
prosecuting child sexual abuse allegations against clerics for any of the following separate and
distinct canonical crimes: (1) solicitation for sex in the act of sacramental confession, (2)
homosexual sex, (3) sexual abuse of minor males or females, and (4) bestiality or sex with
animals.100 The Crimen Sollicitationis specifically states that anyone involved in the processing of
such cases is bound by the Secret of the Holy Office.101 Meaning that any information regarding
sexual misconduct within the Church was “to be kept in the secret archive of the Curia for internal
use.”102 The Instruction further established that the only individual allowed to see and handle
records evidencing any kind of sexual misconduct was the bishop heading the central office of the
particular diocesan curia where an offense was committed.103
Canon 489, Section 2 regulates the retention of all documents in the secret archive.104
Evidence of any criminal cases concerning “moral matters” are to be burned or destroyed upon the
death of the offending party or after ten years have elapsed since a condemnatory sentence
concluded the affair.105 The only requirement is that a brief summary of the facts be retained, along
with the text of the definitive judgement.106
2. Secreta Continere
In 1974, the Secretariat of State issued a canonical Instruction titled “Secreta Continere.”107
The Instruction rebranded the Secret of the Holy Office as the Pontifical Secret and applied it to
94 Id. at 10.
95 Ian Waters, The Law of Secrecy in the Latin Church, THE CANONIST 75, 84 (1983).
97 Id.; Thomas Doyle, THE 1962 VATICAN INSTRUCTION “CRIMEN SOLLICITATIONIS,” PROMULGATED ON MARCH 16,
1962 (Apr. 1, 2008); See generally CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH,
http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p2s2c2a4.html (last visited Apr. 16, 2019) (The sacrament
of penance or reconciliation is the practice of private confessions of sins to a priest and the receiving of absolution.).
98 Waters, supra note 95.
100 Doyle, supra note 97.
102 Waters, supra note 95, at 80.
103 TAPSELL, supra note 84, at 10.
104 Waters, supra note 95, at 80–81.
105 TAPSELL, supra note 84, at 11; Waters, supra note 95, at 81.
106 Water, supra note 95, at 81.
107 See Instruction Secreta Continere [Secretariat of State], (Feb. 4, 1972); English translation in Papacy Secrecy,
CANON LAW DIGEST 205, 207 (Feb. 4, 1974) [hereinafter CANON LAW DIGEST].