If you review the history of any nation where the state controls the people you will always find secrecy. Evil deeds are done in the dark – in secret. In any dictatorship the press and media are controlled by the state in order to conceal the truth. Arrests by the SS in Nazi Germany were always made at night under the cover of darkness. In our own country trying to find out the truth about government is often clouded in secrecy. Secret The CIA and other government agencies operate behind the scenes and outside of the public view. When there is no transparency, there is no accountability and power can be exercised without worry about being held responsible for it.

There is an article by Sister Joan Chittister in the July 9th National Catholic Reporter which raises the issue. The Vatican has ordered a "visitation" of women religious orders in the United States. The directive states that the "process will conclude in 2011 with a final report" to Cardinal Rode of the Vatican. But, the directive goes on to say: "The report will not be made public or shared with the religious communities." She says about this:

"From where I stand, a secret report is no report at all. When evaluators are allowed to make "reports" that are never seen by the people or programs about which they are "reporting" anything can be said by anybody – without cause and without proof."

She points out that such a report can result in the possibility of a superior being removed without explanation or a religious order suppressed without any religious community involvement. "It can, in other words, change a community's entire life on the basis of a report they have never seen.

Then there is the Vatican's investigation of abuse. Participants in the tribunals are bound by oath not to divulge details or at what stage the case is in. When the trials are over, the participants are not allowed to talk about them. The National Catholic Reporter says that until 1974 pontifical secrecy was called "the secret of the Holy Office of the Universal Inquisition." The punishment for violating the confidentiality was excommunication.

This secrecy requirement regarding sexual abuse within the church is defended on the basis that it would otherwise compromise the ongoing investigation, but these proceedings can go on for years. It is a rare, if not unheard of, case where power exercised behind closed doors is right or holy. We have too many situations in this country now, where secrecy is the routine and evasive responses or outright lies the norm in ensuring the truth will not be set free. In my view, if there is one thing that would benefit my Roman Catholic Church more then anything else it is to adopt the view of the late Pope John the 23rd. When he called for the Second Vatican Council, nearly a half century ago, he said he wanted to open the windows of the Roman Catholic Church "to let in some fresh air." To that I say: "Amen."

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