94 Stephen's GreenIt appears the government of Ireland is unruffled by the Vatican’s recent rejection of Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s condemnation of the Vatican over its attempts to prevent secular governments from prosecuting child-abusing clergy. Almost immediately after the Vatican’s fierce denial, CNN reports that Justice Minister Alan Shatter proposed a new law that would hit the Church particularly hard (WebCite cached article):

Ireland stepped up its battle with the Roman Catholic Church over child abuse Sunday, with Justice Minister Alan Shatter vowing to pass a law requiring priests to report suspicions of child abuse, even if they learn about them in confession.

The Catholic Church regards information learned in confession as completely confidential.

But under the law proposed by Shatter, priests could be prosecuted for failing to tell the police about crimes disclosed in the confession box.

Shatter said in a statement through a spokesman last week that priests’ failure to report what they learn in confession “that has led sexual predators into believing that they have impunity and facilitated pedophiles preying on children and destroying their lives.”

The R.C. Church considers the confessional to be more sacred than almost anything else, so it’s sure to resist this law. Furthermore, even outside the confessional, the Church is vehemently opposed to any kind of mandatory-reporting requirement. This was a key sticking point in the Vatican’s rejection of changes in procedure which had been contemplated by Irish bishops in the mid-90s, and specifically and explicitly condemned in the (now famous but then secret) letter to Ireland’s bishops in January of 1997 (available at the NY Times and on this server):

In particular, the situation of ‘mandatory reporting’ gives rise to serious reservations of both a moral and a canonical nature.

Shatter’s proposal, then, is especially provocative, and it strikes at the very heart of how the Vatican wishes to operate. Good for him … and good for the Irish government.

Photo credit: Wikimedia Commons.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Comments are closed.