Having a number of family members connected with the diocese of Melbourne, I followed the work of the Royal Commission closely to try and understand what was true and false in these matters.
The Royal Commission released their report in 2018. Sections about the Catholic church were redacted due to the ongoing trial of Cardinal Pell. When the high court made the final decision in 2020, the trial came to a conclusion and the Royal Commission released the results of their investigation into the church.
The Catholic church teaches that any secrets disclosed to a priest in the sacrament of confession will be protected by the priest. The obligation on the priest is very strong. Priests who violate the seal of confession can be denounced and ex-communicated. In various cases around the world, criminals have confessed to their priest, admitting to murders and other crimes and police have sought to gain testimony from the priest.
One of the most glaring examples of blackmail is a priest telling his victims that his crimes are subject to the same secrecy but in reverse. It is on page 207 of the report:
What convinces me is the repeated comment (but with little suspicion of the meaning and significance any Catholic priest would find in the story) that D.D. advised the seal of Confession covered any revelation of what had happened in January between them ...
In fact, the victim wanted to become a priest too. The victim was told that he could never become a real priest if he disclosed abuse.
It is bizarre how a renegade priest has twisted the church rules to suit himself. Nonetheless, we see similar mind games in some free software organizations.
We see the same thing in FSFE. Employers and clients always ask us to sign employment contracts and Non-Disclosure Agreements (NDAs). As professionals, we make a concious choice to read and sign those agreements and be bound by them.
In FSFE, we are volunteers. We never consented to a bond of secrecy. The FSFE President, Matthias Kirschner, has tried to unilaterally create a bond of secrecy. If we did not consent to be part of a secret society then his insistance on such terms, without consent to such terms, is as undignifying as the unilateral actions of a rapist. Consent matters.
Here are messages that Kirschner has sent as he tries to force silence upon volunteers:
Subject: Handling of FSFE internal information Date: Wed, 12 Sep 2018 21:06:38 +0200 From: Matthias Kirschner
To: Daniel Pocock CC: FSFE Council Dear Daniel, I am writing to you as president of the FSFE. In the name of FSFE, I am asking you to immediately cease and desist from * Publishing FSFE-internal information, especially by mail and/or by blog posts, and/or * Using FSFE-internal information in order to discredit FSFE, and/or * Using FSFE-internal information in order to damage FSFEs reputation, and/or * Using FSFE-internal information in order to damage FSFE financially.
If you are buying a used car, you want to know about internal defects.
If you donate to the FSFE, you need to know how they waste your money.
You have published information regarding * Supporter contributions,
Anybody can find those figures in the FSFE web site.
* The number of FSFE supporters,
Anybody can find those numbers by looking at the public voting statistics page
* The structure of the supporters by country of origin,
Anybody can estimate those figures by looking at the activity on FSFE mailing lists. Over fifty percent of the emails are written in German.
* The internal decisions making, * Financial contributions and financial expenditure,
As above, these figures were copied and pasted directly from FSFE's own financial transparency pages.
* And other internal information. You have also publicly alleged that the FSFE management is censoring you and that the President is orchestrating a conspiracy against you. By electing to make these allegations in public, you have discredited the organisation in contravention of your duties as a member of the FSFE. We demand that you refrain from repeating these allegations in public while you remain a member of the FSFE. You have done so especially by publishing the following blog posts: https://danielpocock.com/who-were-the-fsfe-fellowship https://danielpocock.com/an-fsfe-fellowship-representatives-dilemma Furthermore, you have sent emails including or referencing internal information over a public mailing list, https://lists.fsfe.org/pipermail/discussion/2018-August/012440.html https://lists.gnu.org/archive/html/libreplanet-discuss/2018-09/msg00000.html The activities mentioned above are an infringement of the FSFE Constitution as well as of several German laws.
That is nonsense.
Is this the FSFEurope committed to transparency or the FSFGermany?
Cutting and pasting the figures from the FSFE web site and putting them into a spreadsheet is not a crime in any European country.
As president of the FSFE, I hereby request that you delete all internal information published by you; especially, I request that you delete the blog posts mentioned above. In addition, as mentioned above, I hereby request that you cease and desist from publishing FSFE-internal information and/or using such information in order to discredit and/or damage FSFE. Until further notice, your blog is removed from the FSFE's planet aggregation, we removed you from receiving the internal statistics, we will put you on moderation on our mailing lists, and we will restrict other access to confidential information. Furthermore, please be aware that 1) this e-mail contains restatements of and/or references to internal information that may not be published without the prior express written permission of the FSFE (this obligation survives the termination of membership); 2) while you remain a member of the FSFE, the publication of our legal demands would be considered further discrediting the FSFE and damaging the bond of trust between the members, and as such, would be considered in any current or future exclusion proceedings. Regards, Matthias -- Matthias Kirschner - President - Free Software Foundation Europe Schönhauser Allee 6/7, 10119 Berlin, Germany | t +49-30-27595290 Registered at Amtsgericht Hamburg, VR 17030 | (fsfe.org/join) Contact (fsfe.org/about/kirschner) - Weblog (k7r.eu/blog.html)
Much of what Kirschner writes is nonsense. In a volunteer organization promoting transparency, there is no such thing as FSFE-internal information. It is an absurd accusation.
Catholics believe that Jesus Christ was reincarnated at Easter. When you read the overbearing demands of Matthias Kirschner, who do you feel has been reincarnated in Berlin?
I never signed an NDA with the FSFE. The community elected me as the fellowship representative. I had an obligation to publish information for the community.
The similarities in the report of Catholic abuse are strikingly similar to the FSFE CoC Abuse:
Culture of secrecy
We are satisfied that there was a prevailing culture within the Archdiocese, led by Archbishop Little, of dealing with complaints internally and confidentially to avoid scandal to the Church.
This comment appears about an eight year old girl. The woman waived her right to anonymity:
In a confidential memorandum dated 20 November 1985, Mr Dooley wrote that he had met with Mr Sleeman and Father Searson to discuss a parent’s concern ‘about what they saw as a sexual advance to their daughter by Father Searson during Reconciliation (Confession)’.
Around the same time that Kirschner was making these abusive demands upon people, we saw Enrico Zini using similar tactics to try and censor various people in Debian. Each of his messages finished with a veiled threat like this:
We are sending this email privately, leaving its disclosure as your decision (although traces in public databases are unavoidable).
The implication is that Mr Zini will never tell anybody that he made defamation about us as long as we are obedient to him.
Volunteers including Dr Norbert Preining and I were brave enough to call his bluff.
In 2014, Italian police secretly recorded a mafia initiation ceremony near Como, Italy.
Here is a quote from the mafia video:
We pledge to deny everything until the seventh generation, to renounce all the criminal societies recognised by me until today, so as to preserve the honour of my wise brothers.
Here is what the Debian Social Contract has to say about secrecy:
3. We will not hide our problems
The FSFE publishes a transparency commitment too.