Canon Law can trump clerics' civil rights
A Swiss priest was forbidden to research or publish anything about Opus Dei until its founder was safely canonised. A Polish priest was banned from investigating or writing anything about clerical complicity with the Communist Secret Service. And countless others who never make it into the newspapers suffer the same fate. For they are bound by Canon Law, the Church regulations whose jurisdiction is guaranteed by many concordats.
Like anyone else who lives under Canon Law, priests can be denied their civil rights.
Even a respected Jesuit editor can find himself muzzled, as Albert Longchamp discovered when, in 1981, he published some scholarly articles critical of Opus Dei. So eager was the Vatican to get Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei, safely canonised that for more than twenty years Father Longchamp was "forbidden under threat of punishment, to research and to spread information 'even if true' concerning this institution, its organisation, its aims and its structures". 
It was deemed such an urgent matter to prevent any informed criticism of Escriva that a Vatican emissary was flown in specially to deliver a letter from Cardinal Casaroli, ordering Longchamp "not to damage the work of the Church".  Escriva's beatification was rushed through in 1992 (even ahead of John XXIII whose death had preceded his). Finally, on 12 October 2002, six days after Escriva achieved sainthood, it was judged to be safe to lift the gag order on Father Longchamp. 
Another example, this time of a priest from Poland, yields more details of the muzzling procedure sanctioned by Canon Law. These two priests, of course, are privileged: they were prominent enough to have supporters who campaigned on their behalf ― in public, where the gag orders of the Church could prove embarrassing. But what of all the nuns and priests who have no one ― and of all the anxious employees of Church-run (but state-funded) institutions?
Polish priest's spy revelations gagged by Canon Law
By Maciej Psyk
The gag order caused a sensation in Poland, with some even speculating that the Cardinal had used threats to silence the dissident priest.  After three days of rumours, Cardinal Dziwisz, former personal secretary of John Paul II, was forced to make his private letter public. Published on 2 June 2006, it provides a rarely revealed example of how an "ordinary", a churchman empowered to enforce Canon Law, can use these Church regulations to rein in a subordinate. 
The rule of obedience required of clerics consists "in a man's allowing himself to be governed throughout his life by another for the sake of God".  This duty is emphasised in Canon (Church) Law, for example Canon 273 ― "Clerics are bound by a special obligation to show reverence and obedience to the Supreme Pontiff and their own ordinary".  If a priest refuses to obey his ordinary he can be disciplined by the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith. This body, formerly led by the current Pope, has a record of punishing prominent theological dissidents in the priesthood such as Anthony de Mello, Eugen Drewermann, Jon Sobrino and Leonardo Boff.
Not that the Rev. Tadeusz Isakowicz-Zaleski faced the prospect of being brought before Cardinal Ratzinger in Rome. The Polish priest wasn't advocating any theological innovations and he wasn't internationally known. He was only known in his own country where he had been appointed was chaplain to the Armenians in Poland. During the Communist era he had contacts with the underground union Solidarity and for this had been savagely beaten on two occasions in 1985 by the Security Service. For his contribution to helping Poland regain its freedom he was awarded by President Kaczynski on 3rd of May 2006, the Polish National Day, the Order of Polish Rebirth, one of the country's highest honours.
It was the Rev. Isakowicz-Zaleski's fondness for history,  which set him on a collision course with his church. At the end of 2005 he took advantage of his right to view the secret files which the Communist Security Service had gathered on him decades before. What he found there shocked him:
The worst was the discovery that among many wonderful and zealous priests of the Archbishopric of Krakow, including some whom I have known and valued, some were found to have been secret agents of the [Communist] Security Service (SB) at the time of People's Republic of Poland.
I contacted the Church authorities about this problem. My first letter was not not answered, the second was answered briefly, referring me to the care of the Holy Mother. Finally, after the next attempt to elicit some position on this issue I heard that these are matters that don’t interest anybody anymore, and that it would be best, they argued, if ― for the sake of the Church ― I dropped the subject altogether. 
However, Isakowicz-Zaleski ignored the warning from the Krakow Curia headed by Cardinal Dziwisz. In February 2006 he appealed publically for all the priests who had served as secret agents for the Security Service to step forward and reveal themselves. The records indicated that these included three active Polish bishops.  Instead, Cardinal Glemp, the Primate of Poland, accused Isakowicz-Zaleski of "sniffing about for priests" and called him an "Over-Inspector of the Stalinist Secret Police".  Undaunted, the priest announced a press conference, 31 May 2006 beginning at noon, in order to reveal a list of 28 secret agents for the Security Service that he had found among the clergy of the Krakow Archbishopric which was headed by Cardinal Dziwisz. Seven of them had already died, but the remaining 21 included some close friends of the Cardinal.
At 9 o'clock on the morning of the press conference, the Rev. Isakowicz-Zaleski was called to the Krakow Curia where he was ordered not to talk, write or publish any information about secret agents from the Catholic Church, and was also forbidden to continue his research in the state archives. He was handed a letter, written the previous day and signed by Cardinal Dziwisz. This letter accused him of “distort[ing] the image of a priest by becoming an inquisitor and a merciless and ruthless accuser.”  The Cardinal justified this censorship by "the risk of a Priest committing a crime under Canons 220 and 1390 §2"  which state:
No one may unlawfully harm the good reputation which a person enjoys, or violate the right of every person to protect his or her privacy.
A person who calumniously denounces an offence to an ecclesiastical Superior, or otherwise injures the good name of another, can be punished with a just penalty, not excluding a censure.
At the noon press conference, therefore, instead of revealing the names, Isakowicz-Zaleski revealed that he was under a gag order.
Today at 9 o'clock I was invited to the Metropolitan Curia, where the Chancellor of the Curia in friendly, brotherly conversation gave me a written decision of the Krakow Metropolitan [Cardinal Dziwisz] who, based on the Canon Law, three continuous paragraphs, justified his censure by [Canon 1339] the chapter "Sanctions in the Church". Due to that [decision] I cannot continue my research nor take a part in a search queries in the Institute of National Remembrance. 
As pointed out by Father Boguslaw Trzeciak and other priests, the Cardinal rebuked him in advance,  as Isakowicz-Zaleski could commit these "crimes" only at the press conference. The Cardinal in his letter cited Canon 1339 §1 which states that:
When someone is in a proximate occasion of committing an offence or when, after an investigation, there is a serious suspicion that an offence has been committed, the Ordinary either personally or through another can give that person warning.
However, that is in accordance with Canon Law's category of the "proximate occasion" of sin: in civil law you have to have committed a crime to be punished, but in Canon Law it's sufficient if an ordinary thinks that you probably will: "the same obligation which binds us to refrain from sin requires us to shun its occasion". 
The pressure being put on the Isakowicz-Zaleski and his censorship-in-advance were exposed in the Polish press at the end of May. After the publicity the Church vacillated about applying the full punishment under Canon Law to a hero of the Resistance who had been honoured by the President of Poland with the "Order of Polish Rebirth". On the 22nd of June, Cardinal Dziwisz reversed himself and allowed the priest to continue his research. However, on the 17th of October 2006 the same censure was applied once more. Then. four days after that, the Rev. Isakowicz-Zaleski was informed that his duties as an Armenian chaplain were ended. A month later they were restored.
Finally, at the end of February 2007, and with the whole country agog to learn its contents, the Rev. Isakowicz-Zaleski managed to bring out his 600-page book, Polish Priests and the Communist Secret Police.  In the end it was force of public opinion which permitted the publication, not the constitutional guarantee in Article 73 of "the freedom of artistic creation and scientific research as well as dissemination of the fruits thereof". Legally his position was weak since, thanks to Article 5 of the Polish concordat, the priest was under Canon Law and could be muzzled with impunity.
Further reading in English (by date)
"Vetting controversy", Warsaw Voice, 25 October 2006.
"Poland risks its stability to tackle the sins of the past", Financial Times, 28 January 2007.
"In Poland, church agonizes over former communist ties:
Unearthed files tell which priests were collaborators", Los Angeles Times, 4 February 2007.
"New book reveals Communist spies' ties with Polish clergy", Eurasian Secret Services Daily Review, 26 February 2007.
"Polish bishops criticise priest's book on Catholic clergy links to communist secret police", Eurasian Secret Services Daily Review, 7 March 2007.
"Poles apart", Special Broadcasting Service, 30 May http://news.sbs.com.au/dateline/poles_apart_130787
1. Albert Longchamp, L'Echo, 22 March 2001, quoted in Patricia Briel, "Un jésuite veut briser un silence de vingt ans", Le Temps, 2 February 2002. http://www.opus-info.org/index.php?title=Un_j%C3%A9suite_veut_briser_un_silence_de_vingt_ans
2. "Pas blesser la charité de l'église", quoted in Caroline Fourest and Fiameta Venner, Les nouveaux soldats du pape, (Paris, 2008), p. 115.
3. "Maulkorb für Albert Longchamp aufgehoben", Reformierte Nachrichten, 16 October 2003. http://www.ref.ch/ma/rna/meldungen/7734.html
4. "Przegląd mediów", ["Media Review" for 1 June 2006]. http://www.ipn.gov.pl/portal/pl/18/2752/PRZEGLAD_MEDIOW__1_czerwca_2006_r.html
5. Cardinal Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz to Mgr. Tadeusz Zaleski, 30 May 2006. http://www.kosciol.pl/article.php?story=2006060200363630
6. Leonard Lessius, De Justitia, II, xlvi, 37. http://en.wikisource.org/wiki/Catholic_Encyclopedia_(1913)/Religious_Obedience
7. This is the first item listed under "The obligations and rights of clerics", Chapter 3, Code of Canon Law (the current 1983 version). http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/__PY.HTM "Obedience" and related words are often mentioned: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ENG1104/X0.HTM
8. "History was always my passion", from the online blurb of his book, Księża wobec bezpieki (Polish Priests and the Communist Secret Police). http://www.isakowicz.pl/index.php?page=news&kid=11&pkid=150
10. "Among others, Isakowicz-Zaleski discovered in the Krakow archive three bishops still in active service as registered informal secret-service agents: the former Archbishop Juliusz Paetz of Posen, who in 2002 was forced to resign due to sexual abuse of student priests, Wiktor Skworc, presently Bishop of Tarnow and Bischop Kazimierz Gorny from the southeastern Polish Rzeszow."
"Drei weitere Bischöfe als Ex-Agenten enttarnt", Die Presse, 28 February 2007. http://diepresse.com/home/politik/aussenpolitik/113955/index.do
11. "NadUBowiec": "nad" means over or above; "UB" is the abbrieviation of the Stalinist Security Service operating until 1956; "UBowiec" was the popular term for a member of this. http://pl.wikiquote.org/wiki/J%C3%B3zef_Glemp
12 Cardinal Dziwisz to Msgr. Tadeusz Zaleski, 30 May 2006, quoted in http://www.axisglobe.com/article.asp?article=1237
13. Cardinal Archbishop Stanislaw Dziwisz to Mgr. Tadeusz Zaleski, 30 May 2006. http://www.kosciol.pl/article.php?story=2006060200363630
14. Interview with Rev. Tadeusz Zaleski, broadcast 31 May 2006. First voice recording at http://www.rmf.fm/fakty/?from=rss&id=100499
He had already in an interview in RMF FM. (http://www.rmf.fm/fakty/?id=99857&temat=75) suggested on 18 May that he would reveal all he knew, and by the month's end had made his decision and scheduled a press conference for 31 May. The Cardinal knew full well what would happen if the dissident priest went ahead.
15."Krakowska kuria knebluje ks. Zaleskiego", Radio Muzyka Fakty, 31 May 2006. http://www.rmf.fm/fakty/?from=rss&id=100499
16. "Occasions of sin", Catholic Encyclopedia, 1911. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11196a.htm
17. The book was issued by Znak, a publisher of Church-related books, on 28 February 2007.