It’s Not About Seals

Mussolini (left) and Hitler sent their armies ...
"Godwin'd!" "Dummarsch" Meeting Of Ireland's Taoiseach and Papal Nuncio

For his criticism of the Pope, one priest has likened Ireland’s prime minister to Adolf Hitler. Another called Justice Minister Alan Shatter a “Jewish non-practising atheist

When your opponents call you Hitler and a Jew, you must be doing something right.

In the wake of the Catholic hierarchy treating child protection rules as something that happens to other people, government has little option but to put them on a statutory basis, complete with the sanction of jail terms for those who “withhold information relating to sexual abuse or other serious offences against a child or vulnerable adult”. There seems no other way – indeed one wonders how that isn’t the law already.

Those who would defend the indefensible however want to characterise this as requiring priests to break the ‘seal of confession’, the vow to treat anything revealed in the confessional in absolute confidence. This is mendacious. I’ve said this before but it bears repeating – no one is going to get a conviction based on a private conversation between two people. Even in the unlikely scenario of a convicted child abuser accusing his confessor of failing to report him, his testimony would still be uncorroborated.

What about a scenario where a priest hears a child “confess” that someone has been interfering with them? Even if the priests still considers that information privileged, surely he would take whatever action he could to ascertain for himself, outside the confessional, whether the child really was in any danger, would report any reasonable suspicions to the relevant agencies, and would encourage the child to do so too.

And surely he would consider himself morally compelled to do that whether this law was in force or not.

Wouldn’t he?

But the law is not aimed at confessors. It is aimed at stopping the Catholic hierarchy concealing information they have about abusing priests, information that they are acting on themselves. Which – unless they themselves are breaking the seal – does not come from confessions, but usually from the complaints of victims or their parents. People who protest that the law will threaten the sacrament of confession are merely out to defend the autocracy of that hierarchy.

4 thoughts on “It’s Not About Seals

  1. Maybe they’re afraid that if they start cracking down on pedophile priests, they won’t have enough priests left for the Church to carry on? See also, number of openly gay priests they turn a blind eye to (at least in the States).

    1. The things that have been coming out of Florida recently are pretty amazing all right. I think though it’s really more people’s ensuing massive rejection of their faith that worries them.

      Mind you, if they did eject everyone who broke their vows of celibacy in the broadest sense, between paedophiles, priests who have had affairs with women, and actively Gay priests (open or otherwise) I think they really would have too few left to carry on.

  2. Maybe they’re afraid that if they start cracking down on pedophile priests, they won’t have enough priests left for the Church to carry on? See also, number of openly gay priests they turn a blind eye to (at least in the States).

    1. The things that have been coming out of Florida recently are pretty amazing all right. I think though it’s really more people’s ensuing massive rejection of their faith that worries them.

      Mind you, if they did eject everyone who broke their vows of celibacy in the broadest sense, between paedophiles, priests who have had affairs with women, and actively Gay priests (open or otherwise) I think they really would have too few left to carry on.

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