In Australia, a proposed new law could require priests to turn over anyone who confesses child abuse to the police. And Australia’s not alone. In fact, it’s something of a trend.
The Irish Justice Minister introduced a bill earlier this year making it a criminal offense to fail to disclose information to police which would “assist in prosecuting a person who commits a serious offence against a child or vulnerable adult.” That includes priests being mandated to break the seal of the confessional.
According to LifeSiteNews.com, a number of priests and bishops have already spoken out against such laws.
“Ireland can pass whatever laws it wants,” said Archbishop Girotti, regent of the apostolic penitentiary, to Il Foglio, “but it must know that the Church will never submit to forcing confessors to inform civil officials.”
Cardinal Seán Brady, the primate of Ireland, condemned the government’s plans, calling them “challenge to the very basis of a free society.”
“The inviolability of the seal of confession is so fundamental to the very nature of the Sacrament that any proposal that undermines that inviolability is a challenge to the right of every Catholic to freedom of religion and conscience,” Cardinal Brady said to a group of pilgrims at the Shrine of Knock.
While some may think that anything in the name of protecting children is ok, this is not good. In fact, it would only assure that child abusers would never confess their sins and would have nobody to urge them to turn themselves in.
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, 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.”