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 ...
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.