A bad interpretation of the Eighth Commandment?

A bad interpretation of the Eighth Commandment?

Bishop James Moynihan of Syracuse, NY, released his diocese’s audit of sex abuse, but remained adamant he would never release the names of priests found guilty of sex abuse. (I think he means those found guilty by the Church’s investigation but not criminally charged. Criminal charges are public records in any case.)

Moynihan’s reason? He says the Eight Commandment—“Thou shalt not bear false witness”—forbids it. He said that in addition to forbidding lying, the commandment also forbids revealing a person’s “hidden faults.” Hidden faults? Hidden from whom? Certainly not from the victim of abuse. Also, a priest’s vow of celibacy is a public act before the whole Church. Wouldn’t his violation of the same also be a public act?

  • Diogenes looks at the bishop’s claims and finds they don’t hold water according to what the Catechism says.

    “First, there’s a morally important difference between revealing the name of an accused man and a guilty man. Second, it is sinful to reveal the fault of another without an objectively valid reason (Catechism 2477); if protection of the vulnerable from recidivist sex abusers isn’t such a reason, nothing is. Third, a priest’s commitment to chastity is a public and not a private undertaking, made in full view of the community; crimes against innocent persons—committed in contempt of his solemn oaths and reckoned as felonious acts even under civil law—hardly count as ‘hidden faults.’”

    As for the legal reasons, I don’t think they hold water either since (a) the victims presumably know the names and are the ones who would sue in any case, (b) naming the priests is not a declaration of culpability; saying you knew of the crimes and ignored them would be, and (c) presumably it would have the victims who came forward to report the crimes so the Church would not have had to seek them out.

  • The Church, as a mandated reporter in most states of which NY is one I think, is shielded from legal liability for reporting credible allegations of child abuse. As for (c), you missed my point. The only way the Church knows that these priests are alleged molesters is if the victims have come forward and named them. How would the Church know otherwise?

    And finally, I don’t care at this point if it makes the Church look bad. The truth is preferable to what we have now.