Crimen sollicitationis a 1962 document by the Catholic Church describing how various matters should be handled by Church law. I have heard differing claims from various people as to whether the penalty of excommunication applied to a victim reporting their case to the civil authorities. Can anyone confirm how this document was applied?
First, I want to say that most of the abuse did not start coming to light until the mid 1980's, and that the 1983 Code of Canon Law has language that removes the teeth from that document (in 1983, all previous canon laws end extra-canon penal definitions were made void).
The TLDR; version is that there is little in the document which actually refers to layman. The only way one can be excommunicated is:
I've never heard of instruction before you brought up the question, but I figured I'd better actually read a bit of it before making a judgement. Because I am a Catholic, I always know the Church is teaching the right thing even if it is misunderstood or poorly applied. Here it is, by the way, so you can read for yourself and find out what's not in there.
So, one is excommunicated if they don't report the crime to church authorities
However, a little farther down you might read:
And think, that if someone reported the same crime to the police that they reported to the church that they would incur excommunication. But, why on earth would someone report the crime to both places? Nothing in the document says that it is a crime for the laity to report a crime to the police. However, in the time of this writing sexual harassment and a whole host of other perversions were not dealt with by the police the way they do now, so this may have been the only recourse some people had (and this is a global document and a translation of one at that) so it may have greater weight in more Catholic countries than the USA and Australia.
But, as for implementation, the National Catholic Register has a good interview with priest who says:
So, there it is, it's never been understood as a ban on denouncing crimes.