Posts Tagged “confessional”

In this photo provided by the Australian Government Royal Commission, Commissioner Justice Peter McClellan, seated left, watches as Governor-General of Australia Peter Cosgrove, seated right, signs a document after receiving the final report of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse at Government House, in Canberra, Dec. 15, 2017. The commission delivered its final 17-volume report and 189 recommendations following a wide-ranging investigation. (Jeremy Piper/Australian Government Royal Commission via AP)Australia has been investigating child abuse at the hands of Roman Catholic clergy for several years now, and at long last, its report is final. As the Associated Press reports via Religion News Service, the numbers are staggering, and among contributing issues is the Church’s mandatory celibacy policy (Archive.Is cached article):

An Australian inquiry into child abuse recommended Friday that the Catholic Church lift its demand of celibacy from clergy and that priests be prosecuted for failing to report evidence of pedophilia heard in the confessional.

Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse delivered its final 17-volume report and 189 recommendations following a wide-ranging investigation. Australia’s longest-running royal commission — which is the country’s highest form of inquiry — has been investigating since 2012 how the Catholic Church and other institutions responded to sexual abuse of children in Australia over 90 years.

(That last part is for all the Roman Catholic apologists out there who think this investigation was merely a pretense for attacking their precious Church. It wasn’t. But I digress.)

Another problem cited in the report is the confessional secrecy:

It said the bishops’ body should also request clarity on whether information received in the confessional that a child has been sexually abused is covered by the seal of secrecy and whether absolution of a perpetrator should be withdrawn until the perpetrator confesses to police.

Catholic clerics who testified to the royal commission gave varying opinions about what if anything a priest could divulge about what was said in a confessional about child abuse.

The commission’s recommendations, which with interim reports total 409, include making failure to report child sexual abuse a criminal offense. Clerics would not be exempt from being charged.

The law should exclude any existing excuse or privilege relating to a religious confessional, it said.

This recommendation wasn’t exactly welcomed by the R.C. hierarchy:

“I cannot break the seal. The penalty for any priest breaking the seal is excommunication; being passed out of the church,” [President of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference, Archbishop Denis] Hart said. “I revere the law of the land and I trust it, but this is a sacred, spiritual charge before God which I must honor, and I have to try and do what I can do with both.”

Let’s be honest about it, though: The R.C. bureaucracy often uses the sanctity of the confessional to justify not reporting abuse to local authorities, the premise being that a priest’s superiors learned about it in the confessional. That, of course, is just a contrivance. I’m no expert on Catholic doctrine and dogma surrounding reconciliation (aka confession), but as I understand it, using the confessional as “cover” for one’s criminality — and especially using it to invite the collusion of the priest to whom one confesses — invalidates it as a sacrament. And that, in turn, lifts the secrecy provision.

But hey, what could this cynical, godless agnostic heathen possibly know about such holy things?

Photo credit: Jeremy Piper/Australian Government Royal Commission, via Associated Press.

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

Comments 1 Comment »

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 Comments Off on Irish Government Continues To Stand Up To Catholic Church