Friday, July 15, 2011

Irish priests and the seal of the confessional...



Threatened.
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Roman Catholic priests in Ireland may once again face official Government persecution and imprisonment if a new law passes requiring them to break the seal of the confessional and reveal crimes confessed in the sacrament of reconciliation.  The Church was formerly persecuted during the period known as the Penal Laws - and not since then has the Church faced such hostility.  I'm not sure even the Communists and Nazis were able to pull off such an abuse of religious freedom.  Catholic priests are renowned for preserving the seal of the confessional, and they have a few patron saints to prove it, amongst them St. John Nepomucene (story below) and Blessed Felipe Ciscar Puig, "considered a martyr of the sacramental seal as he was shot for refusing to reveal the confession of a Franciscan priest who was himself executed, during the Spanish persecution of 1936"
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Irish law would limit religious freedom.
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Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny promised to introduce a new law that would jail priests for up to five years if they failed to tell the authorities about crimes of sexual abuse disclosed during confessions.
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“The law of the land should not be stopped by a crozier or a collar,” Kenny told journalists July 14.
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Such a proposition runs contrary to the internal law of the Catholic Church known as Canon Law. It says of confession that “the sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason,” with the punishment for such a breach being “a latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.”
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“It will end up with priests being put in jail,” said Father Paul Hayward, editor of the Canon Law Society of Great Britain and Ireland’s journal Abstracts.
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“We have to get greater clarity as to what exactly is being proposed but, certainly, no priest who values their priesthood would ever break the seal of confession. This could make martyrs of a lot of Irish priests.”  - CNA 
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Art:  St. John Nepomucene, martyr of the confessional. 
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Brief biography from Catholic Online:  In his early childhood, John Nepomucene was cured of a disease through the prayers of his good parents. In thanksgiving, they consecrated him to the service of God. After he was ordained, he was sent to a parish in the city of Prague. He became a great preacher, and thousands of those who listened to him changed their way of life. Father John was invited to the court of Wenceslaus IV. He settled arguments and did many kind deeds for the needy people of the city. He also became the queen's confessor. When the king was cruel to the queen, Father John taught her to bear her cross patiently. One day, about 1393, the king asked him to tell what the queen had said in confession. When Father John refused, he was thrown into prison. A second time, he was asked to reveal the queen's confession. "If you do not tell me," said the king, "you shall die. But if you obey my commands, riches and honor will be yours." Again Father John refused. He was tortured. The king ordered to be thrown into the river. Where he drowned, a strange brightness appeared upon the water. He is known as the "martyr of the confessional." He is patron of Czechoslovakia, where he is invoked against floods and against slander. His feast day is May 16.   - Source 

17 comments:

  1. The Papal Tiara represents Christ as Priest, Prophet and King.

    There is no force on this planet with greater authority than the Priest.

    It is time to draw our swords.

    *

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  2. Anonymous7:20 PM

    what has happened to the Faith in Ireland??- this kind of threat would have been unheard of even 10 years ago- this I think is a sad and bitter fruit of all the clergy abuse- there is so much hurt and resentment now among many Irish and politicans always seem to play on that in an evil way. Lord have mercy on the people of Ireland and pray for the purification of the Church in that country. Maybe this is a needed wake-up call, if the abuse scandal was not enough!

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  3. Ireland is going the way of the rest of Europe, just more slowly.

    The Pope is going to be visiting Germany in September - there are Catholic clergy openly involved in the liberal theologians' push to threaten the Holy Father with schism unless the Church change her teachings on certain issues (the usual suspects). Some priests, theologians, and diocese are calling for open schism with Rome, since "the people have lost their trust in Rome" after the abuse scandals (mind you, like in any other country, priests do not account for any more abuse than Protestant preachers, teachers, or anyone else in a position like that).

    And the bishops are afraid to push back too hard with the true teachings of the Church, since people might then formally leave the Church, which in Germany means they will stop paying the Church tax (nominal Catholics pay huge sums to the Church as part of their income tax, but they have the option to "leave" and put their money elsewhere - into "humanist" funds or whatever).

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  4. Also, who would go and confess a crime like child abuse and then have the priest say "okay, my son, say three Hail Marys and offer your next Mass in atonement for your sins".

    Wouldn't any priest make penance and absolution conditional on the penitent "making up for" his sin in any way he can - which in many cases means reporting himself to the authorities?

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  5. PatO - I have no idea what you may have gone through, or what you have seen.

    But the idea that the Catholic Church is a concerted child-rape empire is just laughable.

    And please give evidence that Catholic priests are MORE likely to do such horrible crimes than any other group. In fact, I would bet everything I own that stepdads and live-in boyfriends are much, much more likely to abuse children than priests.

    And also, the idea that the confessional is the site of routine scandal goes back to the blackest legends of the Reformation. For every example you can give, there are examples of the same kind of behavior coming from each and every group of people on earth.

    Or do you think priests really hear such horrible confessions and NOT tell the person to turn himself in (and I mean on average, don't give me isolated incidents and stories, because one can find those for anything)

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  6. Whoa, into the ether!

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  7. I would have kept his post there if I knew you were going to respond. Sorry - thank for taking up the cause however.

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  8. Now Iook schizophrenic :(. Haha, no big deal - so Terry, what do you think, would a priest give you a penance of one Our Father, two Hail Marys, one Glory Be for confessing, say, murder, or would he make you turn yourself in?

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  9. I saw the original post, Mercury, and you did a fine job.

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  10. My mom always used to tell us when we were little kids that Ireland would not be allowed to lose it's true faith, due to a prophecy she had heard about the country itself sinking into the sea. I just googled it and found this:

    St. Columcille/Columba (521-597)
    Seven years before the last day, the sea shall submerge Eirin [Ireland] in one inundation.

    There's some pretty dire warnings and prophecy's made by saints regarding the end times.

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  11. Merc - I don't know. Depends on the priest. I would expect him to instruct the person to turn himself in, just as a priest would instruct a penitent to make restitution for a theft. I'm not sure if it would be the actual penance however. A priest would have to answer this.

    "I hung my head..."

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  12. Austringer7:28 PM

    When my former parish priest got ticked off at me (I told him something he didn't want to hear), he told others of things I had said in the confessional (regarding problems in my family when I was growing up) in order to buttress his actions towards me. I have no illusions about the seal of the confessional -- and would not say anything sensitive in the confessional, at least not in the parish where I reside (I would go instead to a different parish).

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  13. You know that is a canonical offense. It's very serious. Did you ever report it?

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  14. Austringer9:25 PM

    No -- he's a good priest, and I didn't want to get him in serious trouble. I do wonder, though, how often it happened -- when I was on good terms with him, he tended to gossip, and now I wonder if some of that came from the confesssional. All of which points out that it's probably not a good idea to be good friends with one's priest, as it leads to casualness about these kinds of things.

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  15. Anonymous9:53 PM

    Austringer,

    The other thing to consider too- is: did you tell this priest about your family problems outside of the Confessional as well as in the Confessional?- because the tricky thing is people sometimes say Fr. broke the seal- when in fact they forgot that they also mentioned these things outside of the Confessional- this is where friendship with the priest you go to Confession to can be tricky. The other thing is technically, in terms of canon law, to break the seal a priest would have to reveal your sins- so technically the background info of the family you grew up in is not sin material- but still the priest should keep his mouth shut on anything told in the context of Confession- even if it is not sin matter. Also if he did reveal your actual sins to others then it would be a canonical offense as Terry mentioned in the last comment- let me give a made-up example: a priest tells someone "did you know Bob committed adultery with his secretary- I know this from a good source", namely Confession!!!- which in such a worst case scenerio the priest would be excommunicated and only the Pope can lift that penalty. Scary stuff. That's why it is so important to pray that priests are given wisdom and prudence and holy forgetfulness in regard to hearing Confessions. But please don't stop going, go to another priest in another parish and receive those healing graces of God.

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  16. Austringer8:38 AM

    Anonomous,

    Yes, I know for a fact that I mentioned my family difficulties outside of the confessional: I talked to Father a few times, over the years, in what would have to be considered private counseling when family matters raised their ugly heads. So -- the information he passed on to others came from the confessional and private conversation. Not much to choose from there....it's a violation of privacy either way. I guess I should give Father the benefit of the doubt and say that he violated the seal of private counsel and not the seal of the confessional, but I don't really believe that so I won't assert it.

    I love the sacrament of confession, and so my experience with this priest in no way affects my habits. But I will not mention any sensitive matters to my oparish priest. I think it's only prudent to save these matters for another priest at a different parish. I think that priests are no better at gossip and spreading information than the rest of us dolts. I would NOT trust the "seal of the confessional" to any priest, and I think it's naive (and probably uncharitable) to put such a burden of trust on them.

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  17. A Random Friar10:39 PM

    To the honorable ministers of the government of the Irish Republic, regarding the matter of the Seal of Confession: make me.

    If a priest, friend or not, violates the Seal of Confession, this is -extremely- serious. I've yet to meet a priest that did this, saint or not. You cannot know if he also did not do this to others. If it was a "slip-up," then a stern warning at least is in order, but if it maliciously done, this is something reserved to the Holy See.

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