In the News: Ireland Will not Excempt Confessions From Abuse Reporting

I have not been following the sex abuse scandal in the Irish Church as I just don’t have the  stomach for it.  My favorite deacon, however, has and he gave me a heads up on this rather shocking development. It looks like faithful Priests could be jailed for not violating the sacramental seal of the confessional.

The Irish Independent reports:

Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald has vehemently ruled out exempting the Catholic sacrament of confession from long-awaited rules on mandatory reporting of child abuse.

Amid the fallout from the Cloyne report’s exposure of former bishop John Magee for failing to unmask abusive priests, the minister reiterated warnings that there will be no exceptions to hardline rules on withholding information.

Ms Fitzgerald dismissed out of hand suggestions that information given to a priest in the confessional about crimes against a child can remain confidential.

The Catholic Church’s watchdog on clerical abuse, Ian Elliot, has claimed there should be room to allow clerics to keep secret details passed on when someone seeks forgiveness. But Ms Fitzgerald on Friday backed Taoiseach Enda Kenny’s stark warning that one rule will apply to everyone in Ireland.

“The point is, if there is a law in the land, it has to be followed by everybody. There are no exceptions, there are no exemptions,” the minister said. “I’m not concerned, neither is the Government, about the internal laws, the rules governing any body.

“This is about the law of the land. It’s about child protection. Are we saying … if a child is at risk of child sexual abuse that should not be reported? We cannot say that. The law of the land is clear and unambiguous.”

Under new laws planned to be in place by the autumn, anyone found to have withheld information on a crime against a child will face up to five years in jail. Continue reading here…

The abuse scandals which have rocked the Church for years are deplorable and they have inflicted great damage on the body of Christ.  The priests who committed such atrocities, and the bishops who provided cover, will have a lot to answer for when they meet our Lord face to face.  Sinful, unfaithful clergy have been a problem since Judas.  St. John Chrysostom said that the road to hell is paved with the skulls of bishops.

While I understand the outrage and the resolve to end the abuse, it is not an excuse to extend the long arms of the law to the confessional. Priests can not, for any reason, betray a penitent.

I predict that if the Irish government enacts this law, without religious exemptions, that journalists will use the sacrament to entrap priests. If I am right, we will see priests being jailed.  But it won’t be the abusive priests who deserve to never see the light of day; it will be faithful innocent priests who will suffer.

The sacramental seal has been recognized by state governments, at least in the free world, for centuries.  This is an unprecedented intrusion by the Irish government into the sacramental life of the Church.

The world is becoming an increasingly hostile place for Christians–at least orthodox ones. And in this case the Catholic Church shares part of the blame.

Above Photo, Inside Confessional, courtesy of two stout monks.

About Susan Kehoe

I am the wife of a Catholic deacon living in Des Moines Iowa. My husband Larry and I have been married 39 years. But the deacon’s wife gig is a new twist. Larry was ordained in August of 2006. We have two children and five grandchildren. The oldest grandchild is ten and the youngest is three. Our daughter and her family live in Ireland, and our son and his family live in Franklin Massachusetts.
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3 Responses to In the News: Ireland Will not Excempt Confessions From Abuse Reporting

  1. You say, “I have not been following the sex abuse scandal in the Irish Church as I just don’t have the stomach for it.”

    What courage you have. Any comments on what God will think of you for that?

    • Susan Kehoe says:

      Patrick,
      My you do get around. I don’t have to read every account of sexual abuse in the Church, to know that it is a great evil. But I do pray for all of the victims and the priests involved. I also pray for good and faithful priests. That, I think, is what God expects of me.

      Not keeping up with every salacious detail is not a sin. Anyway, as a sinner, I will have a lot to answer for when I meet Jesus face to face.

  2. Deacon Bob says:

    Thanks for the post, Susan. I had to post on this also at my blog a few days ago. I, too, think our society is increasingly hostile for Catholics. To attack the seal of the confessional is a strike at the heart….. even if such a law were to pass it would accomplish nothing of its purported purpose, but accomplish a lot in hurting thousands of penitents who would in some way be fearful of confessing sins other than pedophilia.

    I haven’t heard if lawyer-client communication is subject to this law or not.

    Deacon Bob Yerhot

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