Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Australia May Join Ireland In Trying To Force Priests to Break The Seal of the Confessional

Ireland already has a law that requires priests to break the seal of the Confessional if a confessor tells them about sexual abuse. Priests, of course, have vowed to break the law if need be.

Now, Australia is following suit:
Hundreds of years of Catholic tradition in the confessional could be overturned by Victoria's inquiry into child sex abuse. v Priests would be ordered to reveal crimes told to them in private confessions under one proposal before the inquiry.

But priests say they will resist being forced to reveal secrets of the confessional.

Priest and law professor Father Frank Brennan said the move would be a restriction on religious freedom.

“If a parliamentary inquiry were to recommend a law by parliament saying that priests were forced to disclose anything revealed to them in the sacrament of confession I think that would be a serious interference with the right of religious freedom,” Father Brennan said today.

“Indeed it would be a very sad day if we moved to a police state mentality, it’s almost of Russian dimensions to suggest Catholic priests would have to reveal to state authorities what went on under the seal of the confessional.

“I am one of the priests who, if such a law were enacted, would disobey it and if need be I would go to jail.”

Father Brennan said disclosures to priests in the confessional were different to those made to doctors or counsellors, or even when a priest was acting in a counsellor role.

“If it were in the sacred realm of the sacrament of confession which in Catholic theology is akin to the penitent being in conversation with God, where the priest is simply an agent, then definitely the state has no role of interference in that.”
Continue Reading.
Several other issues are pertinent here:

  • How would the authorities enforce this law?
  • Why are they targeting only Catholic clergy?
  • Is this a mere political tactic to jump on the anti-Catholic clergy bandwagon?

Sad day for all of us, but I don't see it changing anything nor making a positive impact in any way.

Pray for our priests, our Church, and our culture.


Katy Anders said...

In Texas, at least, practically everyone has the duty to come forward if they know of child abuse taking place.

Lawyers and doctors, both of whom have privilege in court and a professional duty of confidentiality, are bound to come forward if they know of abuse.

It's tough to enforce it in those contexts.

But it is considered to be THAT important, I think.

As a matter of fact, it is deemed so important that it is the ONLY context in which lawyers have to bust confidentiality. In other circumstance - like client plans for murder! - lawyers have the OPTION of busting confidentiality.

How does it get enforced? Usually it's tough, although concern for the safety of children is sort of its own reason for self-enforcement.

Tough one. Tough one.

Marcel said...

Really not tough at all.

Quoting Canon 983.1 of the Code of Canon Law, the Catechism states, "It is a crime for a confessor in any way to betray a penitent by word or in any other manner or for any reason" 2490

This means a priest can't break it for any reason - to save his life, to save another, to aid justice, etc.

It is considered so holy, that the Catehism says in paragraph 1467 - citing the Code of Canon Law (No. 1388.1) "A confessor who directly violates the seal of confession incurs an automatic excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; if he does so only indirectly, he is to be punished in accord with the seriousness of the offense."

There is no good reason to break the seal.

Katy Anders said...

The tough part, to my mind at least, would be actively campaigning AGAINST such a law in those countries where it is being proposed. I would not want to be the person in charge of the PR campaign explaining why the Church won't turn over child molesters.

The "good reason" would, of course, be preventing ongoing instances of child rape.

Since everybody else has to break their confidentiality to report child abuse - and in light of the very public history of the Church involving cover-ups of child molestation - it would be a very uphill PR battle.

I tend to think it's a BAD idea to put the state into the confessional. But man is that going to be a rough argument in light of recent history.

John Fisher said...

While our politicians in the State of Victoria are ignorant about what Confession actually is. They should watch Hitchcock's "I Confess".
Yet this proposal is an indication of growong htared and frustration with the 38 bishops in Australia. The religious congregations and orders are a real problem. They do not pass on abuse cases to Rome as ordered and some like the Vincentians are little homosexual cliques that hide behind their independence of the bishops. The Australian Catholic Church is largely a colony of the Irish Catrholic Church. many of the problems are identical between Ireland and Australia. The Church needs to have a purge of liberal clergy as sex abuse is a liberal vice!