Throughout the last twenty years of advocating on behalf of survivors of childhood sexual abuse, I have heard countless names for the secret sex abuse archives in the Roman Catholic Church.
These files, according to the Code of Canon Law, are mandatory in every Diocese or Archdiocese around the world:
Can. 489 §1. In the diocesan curia there is also to be a secret archive, or at least in the common archive there is to be a safe or cabinet, completely closed and locked, which cannot be removed; in it documents to be kept secret are to be protected most securely.
§2. Each year documents of criminal cases in matters of morals, in which the accused parties have died or ten years have elapsed from the condemnatory sentence, are to be destroyed. A brief summary of what occurred along with the text of the definitive sentence is to be retained.
Can. 490 §1. Only the bishop is to have the key to the secret archive.
Now comes yet another name from Newark Archbishop John J Myers J.C.D.: the caged files
Caged files, Secret Archives, Hell files, 489 files, Confidential files, the various names speak to the same reality. Big institutions like the Archdiocese of Newark maintain documents and secret histories on people who are credible threats right now. And these “caged files” are NOT designed to protect the public. Instead, they are locked, vaulted, and secreted away to protect the church from the dark immoral haunts whose release—they believe—could upend the institution. Thankfully, survivors in their relentless pursuit of justice continue to rattle the cage, in the hopes that it breaks and frees the secrets.
The thesis for child protection is not complex. We call upon Archbishop Myers to support a change in the statute of limitations; break open the caged files he alone controls; and protect children past, present and future by not allowing perpetrators to hide in the Diocese of Peoria’s and Archdiocese of Newark’s “cages.”