Ad Exsequendam Ecclesiasticam Legem

In May 2001, then Cardinal Ratzinger, Prefect for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith (CDF) wrote a secret letter to all the world’s bishops re-asserting the legitimacy of the 1961 document Crimen Solicitationes which advocated keeping secret, among other things, sexual abuse by the clergy. In 2001, Ratzinger stated that the 1961 document is still in effect and should be the protocol for handling sexual abuse cases involving minors. The 2001 letter was necessary because in 1983 Pope John Paul II promulgated a new Code of Canon Law which superceded the 1961 letter as well as the old 1917 Code. The 2001 asserts once again that the proper purview for sex abuse cases is the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith and not civil authorities. In addition, Ratzinger states that such cases are bound by the “Pontifical secret” an arcane oath of secrecy which if broken is punished by excommunication latae sententiae.