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.

Expel The Papal Nuncio

Ireland
Get The Snakes Out

Here’s one aimed at the Irish readers, though everyone else’s moral support would be welcome of course. It may be based on a Facebook group, but it’s no slacktivism. It’s a good old-fashioned letter writing campaign.

The object is to request, politely but with brio, that the Vatican’s representative in Ireland should be sent home – just as would the diplomats of any state that instructed its agents to break domestic law and to conceal acts that broke domestic law. The analogy with a country caught spying is a strong one; by any standard these are the actions of an unfriendly power. The Vatican must accept that it cannot put its own interests above those of a nation’s children without gaining the enmity of that nation.

You can write to your TD, Senator and/or directly to the Minister for Foreign Affairs (Eamon Gilmore). There’s a letter template, but of course you can use your own words.

Try not to swear too much.