The Sacrament of Confession vs The Law

For discussion of philosophy, religion, spirituality, or any topic that posters wish to approach from a spiritual or religious perspective.
Post Reply
User avatar
Alatar
of Vinyamar
Posts: 9559
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 11:39 pm
Location: Ireland
Contact:

The Sacrament of Confession vs The Law

Post by Alatar »

We have trouble brewing in Ireland! Please note, I am not an expert in any of this and am only reporting on my understanding of the situation from media reports.

The Cloyne report into Clerical abuse threw up some astonishing facts about cover ups in the Catholic Church in Ireland, both at local level and in the Vatican. As a result of the report and its findings about the refusal of the Church to co-operate with police investigations there was a strongly worded condemnation made by our Taoiseach (Prime Minister) of the actions of the Papal Nuncio. As a direct result the Vatican removed the Papal Nuncio from Ireland and he was not replaced. Many feel this was an intentional affront to "punish" the Government for questioning the Vatican.

New legislation is being drafted that will make it an offence to knowingly withhold information of paedophilia, no matter what the internal rules of a religion may require. The obvious extension of this is that a Priest will be legally required to provide details of crimes confessed in the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Naturally, there's a lot of reaction to this.

Here's the Cloyne Report:
http://www.rte.ie/news/2011/0713/cloynetracker.html
Image
The Vinyamars on Stage! This time at Bag End
User avatar
Voronwë the Faithful
1000%
Posts: 38621
Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 1:41 am
Contact:

Post by Voronwë the Faithful »

That's really interesting, Al. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.
"Among the tales of sorrow there are yet some in which amid weeping there is joy and under the shadow of death light that endures."
User avatar
Primula Baggins
Living in hope
Posts: 40005
Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 1:43 am
Location: Sailing the luminiferous aether
Contact:

Post by Primula Baggins »

Yes, it will. Confession is not a sacrament in my church, and I believe a pastor would feel bound by law to report that kind of crime if he/she was told of it.

Anyway, I don't see how confessing a crime can make things "right" between the criminal and God while the victim is still suffering.
“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
User avatar
Frelga
Meanwhile...
Posts: 18509
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 11:31 pm
Location: Home, where else

Post by Frelga »

Al, I'm curious, how does the church handle confession of other crimes? For instance, if someone were to confess a murder or a burglary to a priest but not to police, what would happen?

I know very little about this, so the question may not make sense...
His philosophy was a mixture of three famous schools -- the Cynics, the Stoics and the Epicureans -- and summed up all three of them in his famous phrase, 'You can't trust any bugger further than you can throw him, and there's nothing you can do about it, so let's have a drink."

Terry Pratchett, Small Gods
User avatar
Alatar
of Vinyamar
Posts: 9559
Joined: Thu Dec 01, 2005 11:39 pm
Location: Ireland
Contact:

Post by Alatar »

According to Canon law, a priest should (and have in the past) die rather than break the confidentiality of the confessional. Please understand though that this only applies in the narrow boundaries of the actual rite. Anything said to a Priest outside of the confessional is treated pretty much the same as a Doctor or Lawyer. In other words, there is a measure of confidentiality, but the Priest is obliged to report a crime.

There is, however, a weird excuse that can be used known as "mental reservation". In essence this means that the Priest can lie by omission. That's the excuse that was given in many of the cover ups in the Catholic Church. Basically, Priests could leave out some facts, or not report them to the authorities. I believe it can be justified as protecting the Church, or if the Priest believes there is a "higher justice". I don't fully understand it to be honest.

But to answer your original question. A Priest could tell the penitent that he was refusing absolution of the sin until the penitent showed real repentance by turning themselves into the authorities, but he could not reveal the crime to the police unless expressly given permission by the penitent.
Image
The Vinyamars on Stage! This time at Bag End
User avatar
axordil
Pleasantly Twisted
Posts: 8999
Joined: Tue Apr 18, 2006 7:35 pm
Location: Black Creek Bottoms
Contact:

Post by axordil »

I think the difference, if one can call it that, between reporting other crimes confessed and reporting pedophilia is twofold. First, before a crime can be reported as a crime, it has to be discovered. This is more likely for, say, armed robbery than for child molestation. Second, foxes guarding henhouses.
Holbytla
Posts: 5870
Joined: Sat Dec 31, 2005 5:31 pm

Post by Holbytla »

I wonder how or if this will affect the relationship between the client and say a lawyer or psychologist, and I wonder if this will cause people to stop talking about their misdoings and seeking help in spiritual, physical or mental ways.

I also wonder if the church will ignore the new law and keep their mouths silent as they are bound by a different law.

Besides that, I don't see any way of proving who said what during confession.
Image
User avatar
axordil
Pleasantly Twisted
Posts: 8999
Joined: Tue Apr 18, 2006 7:35 pm
Location: Black Creek Bottoms
Contact:

Post by axordil »

ummm are those for this thread or the science thread?
User avatar
Primula Baggins
Living in hope
Posts: 40005
Joined: Mon Nov 21, 2005 1:43 am
Location: Sailing the luminiferous aether
Contact:

Post by Primula Baggins »

I moved an inadvertently misplaced post by vison and a reply by me to the Lasto thread on religion and science. Thanks, Ax.
“There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach.”
― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Return of the King
User avatar
Lalaith
Lali Beag Bídeach
Posts: 14748
Joined: Fri Dec 16, 2005 5:42 pm
Location: Rivendell

Post by Lalaith »

You know I'm a supporter of the RCC, but this type of behavior is poisonous. Until the Church deals with it honestly and legitimately, I think it will be severely hampered in its effectiveness. (In Christianese, I can't see how the Lord would bless the Church as a whole when cover-ups and corruption are such a major part of it, especially when the hierarchy is aware of and participating in the cover-ups and corruption.)

As for revealing information from Confession, I think the Church needs to think long and hard about how best to respond to this. Repercussions aside, the right thing to do very clearly seems to be to report child abuse.
Image
User avatar
MithLuin
Fëanoriondil
Posts: 1912
Joined: Tue Feb 14, 2006 9:13 pm

Post by MithLuin »

The expectation within the Church is that a priest would not break the seal of confession for any reason, up to and including incurring personal legal liability (up to and including the death penalty).

So, should a law be passed that obligates priests to break the seal of confession, the bishops will instruct their priests to break the law (if necessary). What will actually be done remains to be seen.

If a priest were to break the seal of the confessional, he would face penalties within the Church:

"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." Canon 1388.1

This is not exactly a new idea. In 1215, the Fourth Latern Council declared, "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."

Note that the important secret that cannot in any way be revealed is the identity of the penitent or the subject matter of a particular person's confession. Certainly the priest is allowed to go to someone for advice on how to handle something that was shared with him in confession. Thus, if child abuse were confessed, the priest could acknowledge that he had heard that sin confessed at some point...so long as nothing he said indicated who had told him that. The only way around this is to ask the penitent's permission to share the information. Certainly, a priest could ask for that permission and refuse absolution until the person had granted this (or agreed to turn himself in).


The Hitchcock film 'I Confess' uses the seal of the confessional to great dramatic import - it should get the idea across of what is involved, anyway. Brief article on the seal of the confessional.
Post Reply