From MICHAEL WILSON in ROME Pope Paul has issued a new directive aimed at checking security leaks both from within the Curia of the Holy See and by those who, coming from outside, have participated in such Apostolic Palace secrets.
The new "official secrets" act, approved by the Pope on February 4, was issued last week under the signature of the Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Villot.
It affects all those working in the Curia, from cardinal to doorman, and all those, cleric or lay, who have access to any Curia secret information.
The new directive was motivated by irritation over so-called security leaks which became apparent over the recent years and is aimed at strengthening previous "security" documents.
A major leak was that of the Humanae Vitae encyclical on birth control of 1968 which was already in print in an American weekly magazine when the Vatican spokesman officially released it.
Supposedly secret documents on top-level Curia meetines. such as papal admonitions on birth control, sterilization and abortion based on Family Committee suggestions, have been published before the Holy See has released them. Basically the real difference between today's new act and past procedures is that this one explains the reasons for the secrecy imposed by the Holy See, starting with a series of Biblical quotations: "To guard secrets is something of extreme advantage to human nature. . . for that reason silence, a truly difficult thing, not less than (the ability) to speak with frankness and ponderation, are characteristics of the perfect man; there is indeed a time for silence and a time to speak (Ecclesiasticus) and the man is perfect who knows how to put a brake on his own tongue (Isaac)."
The Act states: "It is indeed evident that, dealing with arguments of public interest, concerning the wellbeing of the whole community, the right to determine the duration, the manner and the seriousness in which such secrecy should be imposed, is not a concern of the single individual according to the dictates of his conscience but of he who is legitimately responsible for the care of the community. "As for those who are held to this secrecy, they ought to feel themselves bound not by an external law but rather by the imperative of their own human dignity . ."
I he act lists ten categories of material which fall under the dictates of pontifical secrecy: The preparation and drafting of pontifical documents (such as encyclicals, etc.) for which secrecy has been expressly requested.
Office memos and notes relative to material protected by pontifical secrecy, dealt with by the Secretary of State and by the Council for the Public Affairs of the Church.
The noting or denunciation of doctrine or publications by the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith (ex-Holy Office) and even the fact that these are being examined.
Extra-judicial denouncements of acts against the faith or traditions and offences against the Sacrament of the Confessional.
Reports by the diplomatic representatives of the Holy See. 'Information dealing with the creation of cardinals, the nomination of bishops, apostolic administrators, prelates or major officials of the Roman Curia; anything dealing with the Vatican's codebook or coded correspondence, or any other matters held by the Pope, the cardinals prefect of a Congregation to be of such importance as to merit being protected by secrecy.
And the act states that those bound by this official secrecy are the cardinals, bishops, superior prelates, major and minor officials, consultors, experts and the subordinate personnel of the Congregations.
In case of violation the guilty are to be tried by a special commission headed by a cardinal or by a competent superior which will inflict adequate sanctions commensurate to the gravity of the offence and the damage caused by the leak.
Rome Diary — P2