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Irish govm't to make it criminal offense for a priest not to report sex offender confessions
Catholic Herald ^
| June 15, 2012
| WILLIAM ODDIE
Posted on 06/16/2012 8:39:57 AM PDT by NYer
The Irish government is going to make it a criminal offence for a priest not to tell the gardai when a sex offender confesses his crime: I say, bring it on
Alan Shatter, Ireland's Minister for Justice (PA photo)
It has to be made clear to everyone, including the main Church in this State, that the rights of children and the laws of the land come first, Senator David Cullinane was reported by the Irish Times as saying earlier this week in Seanad Éireann. Priests should know that they cannot use the confessional seal as a reason for not coming forward with information on abuse.
And that is what the government of the Irish republic has now reaffirmed. According to the Minister for Justice, Alan Shatter, if a priest or a bishop, prosecuted under the legislation he intends to introduce, were to claim entitlement to some form of privilege, the courts might be called on to decide the issue, since the special position of the Catholic Church has been removed from the Constitution. He did not, he went on, believe that where a child or a vulnerable adult had been a victim of abuse, the Irish courts would hold that it was “of benefit to the State that those who knew of the abuse should conceal it.
And so, there we are. They are really going ahead with this. Last month, Shatter announced the publication of his bill, which will make it a criminal offence for a priest who learns while hearing a confession about a case or cases of child abuse, from the abuser himself, not to break the seal of the confessional and inform the civil authorities of what he knows. The Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offences Against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Bill is, says the Irish government, one element of a suite of legislation to protect children and vulnerable adults to which the Government is committed.
It is the classic tension between the law of the state and the law of God: we are back, in Ireland of all places (Ireland, semper fidelis, Pope John Paul ironically called it), to Becket and Henry II. But the problems the Irish State is going to have with this legislation will not be solved by moving against one or more troublesome priests who resist it: the divided Irish Church will be as one in resisting it: not one single priest will obey it. Even the ultra-liberal Association of Catholic Priests has condemned the proposed legislation: “I certainly wouldn’t be willing to break the seal of Confession for anyone, was the reaction of Fr Sean McDonagh, one of the ACPs leaders.
Of course he wouldnt. Its the one thing no Catholic priest would ever do; its in the basic DNA of the priesthood. According to article 1467 of the Catechism of the Catholic Church: Given the delicacy and greatness of this ministry and the respect due to persons, the Church declares that every priest who hears Confessions is bound under very severe penalties to keep absolute secrecy regarding the sins that his penitents have confessed to him. He can make no use of knowledge that Confession gives him about penitents’ lives. This secret, which admits of no exceptions, is called the sacramental seal, because what the penitent has made known to the priest remains sealed by the sacrament.
Those very severe penalties are severe indeed, as severe as it gets: the Code of Canon Law is very clear: “A confessor who directly violates the seal of Confession incurs an automatic excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See: that means that he loses the most precious things in his life: he loses both the sacraments of the Church and the exercise of his priesthood, and also that these things can be restored to him only by the Pope himself. As Fr William Saunders puts it: A priest
cannot break the seal to save his own life, to protect his good name, to refute a false accusation, to save the life of another, to aid the course of justice (like reporting a crime), or to avert a public calamity. He cannot be compelled by law to disclose a person’s confession or be bound by any oath he takes, eg as a witness in a court trial. A priest cannot reveal the contents of a Confession either directly, by repeating the substance of what has been said, or indirectly, by some sign, suggestion, or action. A Decree from the Holy Office (Nov. 18, 1682) mandated that confessors are forbidden, even where there would be no revelation direct or indirect, to make any use of the knowledge obtained in the Confession that would ‘displease’ the penitent or reveal his identity.
We know that all, of course: but more importantly, so does the Irish government. So what are they playing at? Well, politics, of course. They want to back the Irish Church even further into the very hard place it at present inhabits, by making it look as though the Church doesnt even want to confront the problem of clerical child abuse. I would expect, says Mr Shatter, that if there was someone going to Confession who was a serial sex abuser, I dont know how anyone could live with their conscience if they didnt refer that to the gardai. So its now a matter of conscience that a priest should betray his priesthood.
But suppose the clergy said they would inform on a child abuser? The child abuser wouldnt be in the confessional in the first place if he didnt want to face up to what he had done. And as David Quinn has pointed out: No child abuser will go to a priest in Confession knowing the priest is required to inform the police. But cutting off the avenue of confession to a child abuser makes it less likely that he will talk to someone who can persuade him to take the next step. The next step is himself to go to the police: it does happen. A confessor may and should try to convince him of that; but he will never get the chance if abusers are scared away from the confessional.
It is the very identity, the raison detre of the Church the Irish State is now bent on weakening: but this is a battle they will lose. In defence of the seal of the confessional, of the law of God over the law of the state, saints and martyrs over the ages have gone to their deaths. No Irish priest will lose his life over this: but if the Irish State wants to turn the Irish clergy from being perceived by Irish public opinion as perpetrators or at least collaborators to being seen (as were Catholic priests of earlier centuries, both in Ireland and also here in England) as victims of an unjust law, let it be so: a few dozen Irish priests in jail could both restore the Churchs reputation for self-sacrifice and integrity and even serve as a kind of vicarious penance for what is past, the innocent suffering for the guilty. If they really want a cause célèbre, in which the Church is victimised by the State, I say bring it on.
I have a small statue, which I bought in Prague shortly after I became a Catholic over 20 years ago, of St John Nepomuk, who might be described as the Thomas à Becket of the Bohemian Church. St John was the vicar general to the Archbishop of Prague. King Wenceslas IV, a dissolute, capricious and easily enraged young man, became suspicious that his virtuous Queen was involved in a sexual intrigue with a courtier. St John was the Queen’s confessor. Although Wenceslas (definitely not Good King Wenceslas) was himself extremely promiscuous, he became increasingly jealous of his wife. Wencelas tortured St John to force him to reveal the content of the Queen’s confessions. In the end, St John was thrown into the River Vltava and drowned, on March 20, 1393. I bought my little statue of him from an old lady on the Charles Bridge in Prague, at the very spot where, according to tradition, St John was thrown to his death. As I write, it stands on my desk.
No Irish priest, as I say, will lose his life over this. But I really hope the Irish government presses on with this astonishing and unique legislation, and that the courts uphold it. Then we shall see what the Irish Church is really made of. Irish Catholics will be united by it: and in the end, the government will have to back down.
TOPICS: Catholic; Current Events; Moral Issues; Religion & Politics
KEYWORDS: abovethelaw; b48orits2late; confession; homosexualagenda; ireland; pedophile
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posted on 06/16/2012 8:40:10 AM PDT
To: netmilsmom; thefrankbaum; Tax-chick; GregB; saradippity; Berlin_Freeper; Litany; SumProVita; ...
For the benefit of non-catholic visitors to this thread
The following is from Catholic Education web site.
The Seal of the ConfessionalFR. WILLIAM SAUNDERS
Can a priest ever tell someone another persons confession?
The standard of secrecy protecting a confession outweighs any form of professional confidentiality or secrecy. When a person unburdens his soul and confesses his sins to a priest in the Sacrament of Penance, a very sacred trust is formed. The priest must maintain absolute secrecy about anything that a person confesses. For this reason, confessionals were developed with screens to protect the anonymity of the penitent. This secrecy is called "the sacramental seal," "the seal of the confessional," or "the seal of confession."
The sacramental seal is inviolable. 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" (No. 2490). A priest, therefore, cannot break the seal to save his own life, to protect his good name, to refute a false accusation, to save the life of another, to aid the course of justice (like reporting a crime), or to avert a public calamity. He cannot be compelled by law to disclose a person's confession or be bound by any oath he takes, e.g. as a witness in a court trial. A priest cannot reveal the contents of a confession either directly, by repeating the substance of what has been said, or indirectly, by some sign, suggestion, or action. A Decree from the Holy Office (Nov. 18, 1682) mandated that confessors are forbidden, even where there would be no revelation direct or indirect, to make any use of the knowledge obtained in the confession that would "displease" the penitent or reveal his identity.
(Just as an aside, a great movie which deals with this very topic is Alfred Hitchcock's "I Confess," which deals with a priest who hears a murder confession and then is framed for the murder. As a priest, I was in agony during much of the movie.)
However, a priest may ask the penitent for a release from the sacramental seal to discuss the confession with the person himself or others. For instance, if the penitent wants to discuss the subject matter of a previous confession a particular sin, fault, temptation, circumstance in a counseling session or in a conversation with the same priest, that priest will need the permission of the penitent to do so. For instance, especially with the advent of "face-to-face confession," I have had individuals come up to me and say, "Father, remember that problem I spoke to you about in confession?" I have to say, "Please refresh my memory," or "Do you give me permission to discuss this with you now?"
Or if a priest needs guidance from a more experienced confessor to deal with a difficult case of conscience, he first must ask the permission of the penitent to discuss the matter. Even in this case, the priest must keep the identity of the person secret.
What happens if a priest violates the seal of confession? The Catechism (No. 1467) cites the Code of Canon Law (No. 1388.1) in addressing this issue, which states, "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." From the severity of the punishment, we can clearly see how sacred the sacramental seal of confession is in the eyes of the Church.
Actually, the Church's position in this matter has long-standing credibility. The Fourth Lateran Council (1215) produced one of the first comprehensive teachings concerning the Sacrament of Penance. Addressing various problems ranging from abuses to heretical stands against the sacrament, the council defended the sacrament itself, stipulated the need for the yearly sacramental confession of sins and reception of the Holy Eucharist, and imposed disciplinary measures upon priest confessors. The council decreed, "Let the confessor take absolute care not to betray the sinner through word or sign, or in any other way whatsoever. In case he needs expert advice he may seek it without, however, in any way indicating the person. For we decree that he who presumes to reveal a sin which has been manifested to him in the tribunal of penance is not only to be deposed from the priestly office, but also to be consigned to a closed monastery for perpetual penance."
A beautiful story (perhaps embellished with time) which captures the reality of this topic is the life of St. John Nepomucene (1340-93), the vicar general to the Archbishop of Prague. King Wenceslaus IV, described as a vicious, young man who easily succumbed to rage and caprice, was highly suspicious of his wife, the Queen. St. John happened to be the Queen's confessor. Although the king himself was unfaithful, he became increasingly jealous and suspicious of his wife, who was irreproachable in her conduct. Although Wencelaus tortured St. John to force him to reveal the Queen's confessions, he would not. In the end, St. John was thrown into the River Moldau and drowned on March 20, 1393.
Each priest realizes that he is the ordained mediator of a very sacred and precious sacrament. He knows that in the confessional, the penitent speaks not so much to him, but through him to the Lord. Therefore, humbled by his position, the priest knows that whatever is said in confession must remain secret at all costs.
Another interesting side to this question is the obligation of the laity: An interpreter needed for someone to make a confession or anyone who gains knowledge of a confession (such as overhearing someones confession) is also obligated to preserve secrecy (Code of Canon Law, No. 983.2). For such a person to violate the secrecy of another persons confession is a mortal sin and warrants "a just penalty, not excluding excommunication" (No. 1388.2). A person who falsely accuses a priest of breaking the seal of the confession incurs a mortal sin and perhaps other canonical penalties, including excommunication.
Clearly, the Church regards the seal of confession as sacred. Every person whether priest or laity must take the obligation to preserve the secrecy of confession absolutely seriously.
posted on 06/16/2012 8:42:03 AM PDT
(Without justice, what else is the State but a great band of robbers? - St. Augustine)
How exactly are they going to enforce this?
Are they going to take the word of the molester that they confessed?
Are they going to wiretap the confessional booth?
Are they going to hold seances to discover when a priest has heard the confession of a molester?
posted on 06/16/2012 8:43:26 AM PDT
by E. Pluribus Unum
(Government is the religion of the sociopath.)
To: E. Pluribus Unum
Priests should be obligated to report this info. Its criminal not to. If you’re dumb enough to tell someone you buggered a child, you should be in prison..
And if the priest or pastor is required under law to divulge confessions of child abuse, how long before they are required to divulge confessions of infidelity during divorce proceedings. For that matter, how long before they are required to divulge any crime?
Besides, technically, it is only hearsay evidence.
From what I read, the typical child molester doesn’t think he’s doing anything wrong, so why would he confess it? Assuming that he’s even in the habit of going to confession . . .
posted on 06/16/2012 9:16:15 AM PDT
The seal of the confessional was a man made rule. And sometimes man has to use common sense. What the hell do you think God gave you a brain for??
Any priest that condones a sex offender via the confessional shouldn't be representing God.
State thinks it’s bigger, badder and better than God. State needs to be destroyed again, as has happened oh so many times throughout the 2000 year history of Christianity. Good riddance state.
posted on 06/16/2012 9:18:28 AM PDT
(Better dead than red!)
Priests should be obligated to report this info. Its criminal not to. If youre dumb enough to tell someone you buggered a child, you should be in prison..
You want to outlaw Catholic confessionals? You want to outlaw a religious practice that is thousands of years old? Is there anything the current generations are not going to totally destroy?
posted on 06/16/2012 9:19:41 AM PDT
Yes. They should be obligated to report an offense punishable by life in prison. Btw, how many molesters go to church? Not many I guess. To hell with perverts. Confessionals or not..
Priests should be obligated to report this info.
So, assuming you were made a heretical Pope and made this edict, how many confessions of pedophiles would you expect to occur afterwards? A guy like you who knows everything should be appointed God.
I'm sure that's occurred to you.
posted on 06/16/2012 9:29:02 AM PDT
by E. Pluribus Unum
(Government is the religion of the sociopath.)
I agree.. to hell with sex offenders. Im catholic and there is enough scandal going on within the church. I will no way condone church officials “hushing” abuse of children. If you want to admit kissing a chic at a dive bar after a shot of jaeger, go for it.. but not child rape. This is criminal..
To: E. Pluribus Unum
You are delusional I have the name of the church. Would god like this train of thought? I think not...
To hell with perverts. Confessionals or not..
I agree with this. But that is not what you are saying. You are saying to hell with the Catholic church.
BTW, I am not Catholic but I thought confessionals were anonymous. How does the priest know who is confessing?
” You want to outlaw Catholic confessionals? You want to outlaw a religious practice that is thousands of years old? Is there anything the current generations are not going to totally destroy?”
Be accountable... get back from the bible. Do you mean to tell me if someone told you they were sexually assaulted, you wouldn’t react? I was, and never told my mom to this day. I didn’t have an advocate... I feel strongly about this...
To: E. Pluribus Unum
They will set up a sting, with a false confession of events that didn’t happen, in order to gin up a political mob.
Socialists don’t actually think there’s anything wrong with intergenerational same-sex intimacy ... they’ve got the UN promoting it as a universal right. However, when the general public no longer has any real moral standards for themselves, the one thing that will still stir up outrage is sex with minors, although they can’t give any reasonable explanation of why a 14-year-old boy and a 16-year-old boy engaging in sodomy is just good clean fun, while it’s unutterably shocking if one participant is 15 and the other is 25.
posted on 06/16/2012 9:39:28 AM PDT
(All that, plus a real-meat cheezburger and wine.)
No. Im not saying to hell with the church. Im proud to be catholic. Where do we draw the line for personal safety. I guess im in an occupation where im a mandatory reporter. I guess that’s in my head..
BTW,I am not Catholic but I thought confessionals were anonymous. How does the priest know who is confessing?
I guess im not a priest because I would reach through the screen and choke his ass.. just saying..
Be accountable... get back from the bible. Do you mean to tell me if someone told you they were sexually assaulted, you wouldnt react? I was, and never told my mom to this day. I didnt have an advocate... I feel strongly about this...
I would report it but I am not a Catholic priest. The bottom line is I believe this is a valuable tradition and I think our generation, the generation that has destroyed marriage, our country, and our future is too stupid to make such an important decision.
You should understand that the people advocating this could care less about sexually assaulted children. They are godless communists that are trying to destroy all religions. Do not let them deceive you.
A criminal conspiracy should be treated as such, even when it’s a religion.
posted on 06/16/2012 9:46:13 AM PDT
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