Skip to comments.Priests Could be Ordered to Report Confessions of Sex Abuse to Police [Australia]
Posted on 07/18/2012 6:56:52 AM PDT by marshmallow
UPDATE: THE prospect of government forcing priests to report what was said in confession is the sign of a "police state mentality", says a priest and law professor.
Hundreds of years of Catholic tradition in the confessional could be overturned by Victoria's inquiry into child sex abuse.
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, its 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.
(Excerpt) Read more at news.com.au ...
What, when they talk to each other?
The political authorities surely realize all this. Which is why I can't see it as anything other than making a show of pointlessly bullying clergy in order to score politically with the bigot constituency.
What is the official direction given to priests that receive confessions that are criminal?
Then the police came for the people that covered for the child rapists, and I...
Nope. Can't come up with a scenario where I see any reason to make religious exceptions on criminal accessory laws.
If it’s a real crime, they are supposed to refuse absolution until after the penitent turns himself in to the authorities.
. . .
You are wrong. You ignore the Truth that is the Catholic Church. The Church that Christ founded. No priest can be required to report this.
So on the list of advocates for abolishing age of consent today:
I'd add one more point to your bulleted list.
The seal of confession allows those who are tempted towards sexual crimes or have entertained thoughts of them but have not yet physically committed one, to be spiritually helped and counseled in complete confidence. Confession therefore becomes a source of help and crime prevention for those who otherwise might not avail themselves of such an opportunity due to the fear of police being alerted.
Read post #4.
"Criminal accessory laws", as they apply to the confessional are counterproductive, unenforceable (absent wiretapping) and entirely unnecessary.
Confessors are canonically required, in the case of a confessed felony, to tell the penitent that he can't be absolved unless he confesses to the police. Under ordinary circumstances, the priest wouldn't even know who the offender is anyway, since confessions are anonymous.
You knew that, right?
A priest should rather die, than do that.
Not yet. But it will. Eventually. Prevention is better than cure, right?
Therefore, in the interests of preventing crime and to help the children, we feel it has now become necessary to not only identify those who have previously committed such crimes but also to identify and monitor those who have an admitted inclination towards such actions.
Do I hear an "Amen"?
If it doesn’t and hasn’t happened, then the edict is merely stating the obvious for effect and there would be zero reason to think much about it.
You knew that, right?
Not only can’t a priest tell what was said in Confession, he also can’t even acknowledge that he heard any particular person’s confession. Besides, in most cases the priest doesn’t know who the confessor is. If a priest does acknowledge any of these things, he ceases being a priest according to the rules of the Church. He cannot do it.
I don’t believe that is accurate at all. Absolution is of God and the Church. Turning one’s self in to authorities is relative to many other circumstances. The Penance is but one.
After correcting for synctatical errors, and assuming that "stating the obvious for effect" is the same as "stupid grandstanding," then yeah. That's just what I said.
>>>Fifth, what a priest can do, and is supposed to do, if a person confesses a felony, is instruct the penitent to contact the police, and withhold absolution until the penitent self-reports his crime.>>>
May I add that no one would report a crime in confession if the priest had to report it to the police. I believe this is just an attempt to keep people from going to confession. Or, in other words, it’s an attack on the Catholic Church.
That doesn’t do much for the cause of justice or future crimes commited by that person, does it?
What would happen to a priest that reported a criminal act divulged to him in confession?
When would a confession be invalid? When the penitent is not a baptized person; then the penitent is under an excommunication the lifting of which is reserved to the Bishop or the Apostolic See; when the penitent lacks awareness of the gravity of a sin; when he does not express remorse, or an intention of amendment.
"To acknowledge ones sins to recognise one as being a sinner, capable of sin and inclined to commit sin, is the essential first step in returning to God" (Pope John Paul II, Reconciliatio et Penitentia, (1984), n.13). Were it not possible to withhold absolution the very integrity of the act of Christian conversion would be undermined.
"God pardons nothing to those who pardon themselves everything," declared that saintly confessor, the Curé of Ars. Purporting to absolve an unrepentant penitent brings no one to this realisation. It will be a rare case, but when a person confesses a felony, requiring him to go to the police before absolution may be the only way to ascertain that he is actually repentant.
Fifth, what a priest can do, and is supposed to do, if a person confesses a felony, is instruct the penitent to contact the police, and withhold absolution until the penitent self-reports his crime.
You are exactly correct.
A priest who violates the seal of confession is subject to very severe ecclesiastical penalties. According to the Code of Canon Law, a priest who deliberately reveals a penitent’s sins and identity is subject to an automatic (latae sententiae) excommunication, which can be lifted only by the Apostolic See, i.e., the Pope (see canon 1388).
I was really torn on this issue until reading your post. After all, if someone is truly repentent, then they should be willing to turn themselves in and endure the consequences. Easy confession, i.e. just say you did it, then go on living as you did before, isn't true repentence.
Aren’t the penitents allowed to choose between anonymous and not?
On a career level, pretty much the same thing that would happen to a lawyer that reported a criminal act divulged to him in a privileged communication.
But this law allows defense attorneys professional prerogatives that it denies to clergy.
Wouldn’t the confession be invalid if the priest didn’t believe the penitent was truly repentant? That way, the priest could report it, and not be in the wrong?
Look for the real fun to start the second the accused gets to cut a deal for a lessened sentence based on giving a priest up. I suppose the pros. gets to decide if he believes the accused or not.
In other words, you made a poor analogy.
Sounds like a simple solution, all the priest has to do, is not believe the penitents sincerity. Since most sex abusers don’t quit until caught, I doubt any of them are really sincere, they just want to make themselves feel a little better by going to confession.
You took a pretty far stretch to twist condemnation of covering for a pedophile when you know about one into a condemnation of free speech. My response was and is warranted.
Who are covering for, wideawake?
What did they do?
Are they still doing it?
Given the way you tried to twist my words, those are very appropriate questions to ask you. Not that I expect you to be capable of giving an honest answer.
The absolution, however, is not always, and in every circumstance, and in every case, dependent upon turning one’s self into authorities.
That was my point to wideawake. Absolution is given, under all the reasons you say, but does not require turning one’s self in to authorities in every circumstance.
|Canon 983: The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore, 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.|
"In any way" "in any manner" "for any reason" seems to indicate that even if the priest suspects that the person is not truly repentant, he still can't violate the sacramental seal.
There was a recent case where a priest I slightly know, was actually arrested because a computer owned by him had child pornography on it. When questioned about it his answers sounded disturbingly evasive, even to me. Later turned out that a grad student had put the porn on the priest's computer (which was in a common area), and had confessed it.
The priest faced a total sliming of his good name, suspension from the priesthood, loss of his job at the University, and criminal prosecution, and yet could not even indirectly allude to the fact that somebody had confessed that he'd put this crap on the computer.
He was later totally exonerated when the offender of his own volition went to the police and confessed.
A dramatic case. You could probably find it if you google the priest's name, Fr. Mark Gruber.
True. It’s not required in every case. In practice I think it would be rare.
It was not a condemnation of free speech on your part, but advocacy for partially abolishing another part of the First Amendment: the freedom of religion.
As Mrs. Don-o has pointed out on this thread already, the proposed law will never have any practical effect on crime.
It is the state using about the most heinous crime anyone can think of as an excuse to exert government control over the Church.
If they were truly sincere about investigating crimes, they would apply the law to all potential confidants of the accused, including defense attorneys.
But they do not, they preserve the privileges of the attorney while obliterating the rights of the clergy.
We know where this leads: pretty soon they will subpoenaing clergy over penitents' taxes and whereabouts and other things.
Who are covering for, wideawake?
This kind of accusation should be beneath you, but apparently is not.
Given the way you tried to twist my words
Your words were quite clear: you agree with this initiative to impinge on religious freedom to strengthen the power of the state over civil society.
I’m pretty sure that priests are not canonically required to instruct penitents to turn themselves in. In fact I think it’s almost the opposite. The priest is not allowed to “force” a penitent to do anything that would damage the penitent’s reputation.
For instance if the sin was theft the priest could require the penitent to give what was stolen to the priest who would then return it, unless even that would give away the person’s identity and then the ill gotten goods would be given to charity or some other solution arranged so long as the thief didn’t profit from his crime.
Beyond all that we’re talking about child abuse here and as far as I understand, most of these “people” (and I use the term loosely) don’t think they’re doing anything wrong anyhow.
I followed up with an actual priest, he confirmed what I believed to be the case. Confessors can “encourage” penitents to turn themselves in but they can’t make it a condition of absolution. Absolution can only be withheld if the “penitent” shows a positive lack of contrition.
Furthermore he went on to say that “it’s not the abusers who come to confession with this stuff, it’s the victims and the victims are expressly expecting the priest to keep his mouth shut”. That at least has been his experience. I thanked him for confirming once again that the priesthood was not my vocation.
By that I mean: a priest always has the duty to withhold absolution if he is convinced that the penitent is not in fact repentant, does not acknowledge the seriousness of his sin, or shows no purpose of amendment. To do otherwise would be to participate in a fraudulent confession, i.e. sacrilege.
Undertaking corrective actions like reporting to civil authorities can be part of the confessor's instructions to the penitent as a matter of justice --- especially if it will save some innocent person from becoming a suspect or being unjustly accused --- and in fact the penitent can ALWAYS reveal what was said in the Confessional (the penitent is not bound by the seal).
But OTOH it cannot be imposed as a "condition" for absolution because:
If a penitent were to say, "Remember what we were talking about last week?" the priest would have to say, "Whether I remember or not, I am required by the seal to leave it there. That slate is clean. So you need to tell me about it as if I've never heard it before."
A priest can't force things in any case. (There's no enforcement mechanism. He's not with the Mafia!) So the best he can do if the guy has clearly not shown the requisite desire and intention of amendment, is refuse absolution.
Discuss the issues all you want, but do not make it personal.