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I am amending my original description because it was reactionary after reading the article. Instead, I would offer this up for polite and insightful discussion, as we so often do here on Gentlemint.

8 comments

  • BenEspen

    BenEspen 2 years, 9 months ago

    This is longstanding case law regarding the seal of the confessional. There are lots of other professions that have the same restrictions on what cannot subsequently be reported from confidential conversations.

    Reply

    • Razorback

      Razorback 2 years, 9 months ago

      I know and it saddens me. I think they should all be required to report crimes, particularly those against children. But I also see how there could be a lot of he said/she said gray area in that regard.

      Reply

  • BaronKorf 2 years, 9 months ago

    Priests have been imprisoned and executed over keeping the seal absolute. Send them to jail if you so desire, but do not expect them to cave.

    Odd that the only time an abuse victim said anything at all would be in confession. That smells fishy to me.

    Reply

    • Razorback

      Razorback 2 years, 9 months ago

      I would not support wholesale disclosure necessarily, because those who follow the faith need the reassurance of privacy. I think the question would be more of when might they feel compelled to speak out. Would it only be for things that might be considered heinous crimes? If so, how do we decide which crimes fit that bill and which do not? I fear that would be difficult to define.

      I agree with you that if a victim confides in a priest, it should be the responsibility of the victim to disclose that to the proper authorities. The priest should merely comfort them and advise them to do so. But what if the perpetrator confessed to a mortal sin such as sexual assault, murder, etc.? Does absolution precede the law? I am not Catholic but I am genuinely curious.

      Reply

      • daemon

        daemon 2 years, 9 months ago

        I would be curious about those questions as well. I am not Catholic either, but was raised Baptist and to my knowledge, there is nothing that shields a victim or perpetrator from full reporting to law enforcement after an incident is made known to Protestant clergy. Once they are made aware of an incident or crime, they are required by law to report it in full to local authorities.

        Is this special dispensation granted legally to Catholics due to their theology of the priest being the facilitator and mediator between God and man for the effectation of their own personal salvation and absolution?

        I find that idea most curious indeed. If this is the case, what other legal privileges are granted to other religious groups due to their theology and church doctrine?

        Reply

      • BaronKorf 2 years, 9 months ago

        The short answer is, the priest can reveal nothing about what is heard in Confession that can link people to statements or events. Period. If they do so they are automatically excommunicated for profanation of the sacraments, and must go to the Pope to lift the excommunication and be absolved.

        Now things that are merely said in private or confidence are not the same as confession, and in those cases the priest should act with the similar prudence of a doctor or therapist in terms of confidence vs personal or public welfare.

        So if a man confesses to murder or some other such crime, the priest can, and probably would, advise them to turn themselves in for the good of their soul, and likely withhold absolution if the penitent is not penitent about their actions and does not resolve to do anything about it. Dying with unabsolved mortal sins means they are damned, so this in no light matter. However, the priest cannot command someone to reveal what they have confessed.

        The sacrament of Confession is a specific event. It generally happens in a confessional or if needed another private room (hospital room, office, etc). No Catholic accidentally goes to confession, but I have heard of non-Catholics who don't know the details walking into a confessional thinking it is just some sort of quiet chat with counseling. This is not the same as someone telling the priest something in private or confidence. Something like that does not count as a confession (unless it turns into one by the petitioner telling the priest of their sins and asking for absolution, theoretically possible).

        So back to my original statement, I find it very odd that a Catholic would tell a priest something only in confession that they expected the priest to act upon. A private meeting, a whispered confidence, an anonymous letter, any of those I could understand and would expect the priest to look into, but Confession is known, or should be known, by Catholics as a place of absolute confidence.

        Reply

        • timeritus

          timeritus 2 years, 9 months ago

          I agree... Whether folks believe it or not, it would be helpful to look upon Confession as if the priest is Jesus Christ, God Himself. Just as a Protestant who had committed some terrible atrocity might 'confess' straight to Jesus, and the government of any country doesn't go after God as someone who should have legally reported it, this is how Catholics view the seal of Confession, or should anyway.

          With that said, BaronKorf has a good point that very likely, any priest worth his salt, looking at the situation, would likely encourage the person to turn themselves in, do penance or reparation for all their sins, and could even withhold absolution if he discerns that the person does not have true contrition and a desire to amend his life.

          Another thing that is important is that Confession is first and foremost about repenting for harming the relationship with God Himself. This does not lessen the fact that other humans have been harmed, but in fact makes it greater. It also does not negate the requirement as Catholics to make restitution for our sins, to as much a degree as possible. So whether a person is a serial killer, rapist, adulterer, or just a boring little kid who kicked his sister in the shins with ill intent, you still need to get right with God, repent, and amend your life.

          Reply

        • Razorback

          Razorback 2 years, 9 months ago

          Thank you for the additional insight. It allows me to better understand the rationale. Not sure if I agree with it but having greater knowledge of the subject allows me to give it more cognitive consideration.

          Reply