10 April, 2010

Secrets of the Catholic Church

From the National Law Review. Here's a snippet:

The Catholic Church must deal with the recent, unfulfilled promise of Pope Benedict XVI that it will never again hide the sins of pastoral administrators. His admirable condemnation of past misconduct and his allusion to extending the statute of limitations for claims against offending priests are appropriate first steps. TWO NECESSARY CHANGES
Without two changes in the Church's practices — its absolute rule about the pastoral privilege by which confidential confessions are invariably protected and its resort to confidentiality agreements in settling complaints of priests' misconduct — his admonitions will prove illusory. The Vatican's secrecy policies have impeded attempts to expose and punish wrongdoings by priests....
There are two secrecy problems that need to be addressed, and redressed. First, the confidentiality of the confessional, intrinsic to Church doctrine, while benign in most situations, also has led to terrible injustices....
To read more, click on the link below

The ONE ESSENTIAL point that this article proposes is absolutely a non-starter for the Church: the violation of the seal of the confessional. The author tries to minimize the importance of the Seal and posits that it is simply a reflection of a culture of silence. He is absolutely wrong.

The seal of Confession does not contribute to the tendency of the Church to deal with sexual predators. It exists only to preserve the integrity of the sacrament - ensuring that any sinner can have the capacity to bring even the gravest matter before God without fearing that his/her transgression will ever become public. It respects the right of anyone to turn to God to confess and receive His forgiveness and allows the presence of a priest to help to confess fully and completely.

As a social worker and as a priest, I know very well that the seal of the confessional has been responsible for assisting many souls to find peace that they could not attain via psychotherapy.

I posted this article not to suggest that the Seal should be compromised in any way, but simply to point out that the scandals are bringing forth many forces that albeit well intentioned are threatening the Church and its adherents. It is just a further manifestation of evil effects that the infidelity of priests and the stupidity of Bishops have wrought upon the Church.

H/T to Mary G. for pointing out the need for this explanation
Secrets of the Catholic Church

16 comments:

  1. Tough luck. The confessional must remain secret at all costs. The faithful must be positively certain that no priest will ever reveal anything ever said, no matter what the threat. A person's salvation is at stake after all.

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  2. There is a problem with that attitude, and it's a very serious one: some "sins" are also crimes, and as such, the "sinners" are very much the concern of the legal system. The law is not concerned with a criminal's soul and salvation -- the law wants his sorry butt in a prison cell.

    And as long as the seal of the confessional is in place, the Church has a special standing of being outside the law in criminal matters. More and more, people outside the Church are looking at this special status and telling themselves that it's not fair. And then they're telling their legislators, who can actually do something about it.

    Stand back and wait for it -- the seal of the confessional is very likely to take a big hit. Soon.

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  3. BTW...is there anything in church teaching that says forgiveness will actually shelter a sinner from criminal prosecution? If a crime is confessed -- and then passed on to a court of law -- does that negate the forgiveness angle?

    Tim? Am I asking this correctly? Is "forgiveness" not strictly a spiritual thing that has no bearing of the jurisdiction of criminal law?

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  4. Lady Janus: You are indeed correct. Forgiveness is of God... Justice is of man. Most people are obliged by a priest to attend to the latter to fruitfully receive the former.

    BTW... did anyone else find it ironic that the organization/profession that is calling for this change is the only other organization/profession that has the right to complete privilege? If you can break the seal of the confessional, there is nothing that will stop the state from removing the same right now held by lawyers,thereby removing the right to not incriminate oneself.

    Just something to think about.

    Fr. Tim

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  5. Suzanne,

    "Tough luck. The confessional must remain secret at all costs. The faithful must be positively certain that no priest will ever reveal anything ever said, no matter what the threat. A person's salvation is at stake after all."

    The secrecy of the confessional is one of the problems; but even more important the whole idea of the confessional is unbiblical anyway and it should be abolished. A person does not need the confessional to receive forgiveness.

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  6. Smalltownguy: "For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven. For those whose sins you retain, will be retained"

    Sound familiar?

    Fr. Tim

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  7. Folks we are all sinners and in constant need of God's forgiveness...some sins are just more public than others..we believe in a merciful God who forgives us in the sacrament of reconciliation...so we owe our fellow man the same as Jesus gives us

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  8. Tim,

    "Smalltownguy: "For those whose sins you forgive, they are forgiven. For those whose sins you retain, will be retained""

    Yes, absolutely familiar Tim. John chap.20 vs23.

    Jesus was commissioning his disciples to go out into the world and preach the gospel. Two verses earlier Jesus said "Jesus said to them again, Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I send you." Saint Joseph Edition, New American Bible.

    The disciples were sent to take the message of forgiveness through faith in Jesus Christ.

    "To him all the prophets bear witness, that everyone who believes in him will receive forgiveness of sins through his name." Acts ch.10 vs 43

    The disciples were to preach the gospel and through believing that Christ is the Son of God who died for them personally and that if they believe on Him, they would receive remission or forgiveness of sins. They were given the power to remit sins by means of preaching the gospel. Those who believe had their sins remitted; those who did not believe did not have their sins remitted.

    The apostle Paul said basically the same thing. "For I am not ashamed of the gospel. It is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: for Jew first, and then Greek." Romans 1:16

    Wayne M.

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  9. I don't think the seal of confession has any bearing on this problem. Myself, I have a real struggle with going to confession, but I stand behind our right to it, and that the seal should NEVER be broken.

    How many of these allegations came to light outside of the confessional? I'm willing to bet the majority of them. Our current situation came about because for decades victims and their families trusted that something would be done after they went and talked to the Bishop, etc. about the abuse. These victims were not encouraged to go to the police. The abusers got moved to another parish, or in some cases promoted.

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  10. kabb

    "I don't think the seal of confession has any bearing on this problem. Myself, I have a real struggle with going to confession, but I stand behind our right to it, and that the seal should NEVER be broken."

    My own opinion is that the auricular confession system quite likely contributes greatly to the problem for the simple reason it creates an atmosphere that may lend itself to temptation for sexual abuse. When you consider that a young person, or anyone for that matter, goes to confession, they are confiding their innermost secret sins and faults to a fallible man who has made vows of chastity and who is not himself married. How can such a situation be considered anything but problematic? Would you think there is the possibility that the devil might see this as a golden opportunity to exploit human nature and weaknesses?

    Such a system of confiding one's secret sins in this way is not even countenanced in the Bible. The Bible warns about even speaking about those things that are done in secret. They are not so much as to be uttered. When the apostle James was speaking about confessing your faults to one another, he was not talking about the secret tribunal of the RC confessional. He more likely meant speaking in a general way to fellow christians such as a a female christian to another female christian. This is not the intimate confession to a priest who is blindly trusted by parishioners. Bible-believing christians are to confess to Christ alone and receive forgiveness from God through Christ. Then should not dwell on the things of the past, but shun evil and any associations and things that cause temptations and lead to sin. Walk in the Spirit and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh is what the Bible says.

    Wayne

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  11. Small Town Guy,

    The priest receives a special grace to hear confessions. Still, especially when dealing with women, I believe it is more prudent to use the old box and grill, the old fashioned way. The way I look at it, the priest is there in the person of Christ. He is another Christ. It is Christ Himself saying.. Go in peace, your sins are forgiven. It is no longer Fr Joe, Fr Sam, or Fr Mike.
    Without hearing those words, how can you be so sure God has forgiven you?
    Also, when a person is confessing a sin of a sexual nature, it is best not to go into nitty gritty details. Only what is essential to understand what happened is necessary. A priest normally does not ask nosey questions in the confessional, only sufficient info to understand the nature of the offense. If the priest asks more than is necessary out of mere curiosity, the penitent should find another confessor.
    This sacrament is the greatest palpable gift of God's mercy to mankind.
    CA

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  12. Anonymous,

    "The priest receives a special grace to hear confessions."

    Can you give any evidence that is true? I would like to know what you base that claim on. Thank you.

    Wayne
    (from a Reformed Church)

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  13. kabb

    "I don't think the seal of confession has any bearing on this problem."

    What is the "seal of confession"? I assume it is the agreement to keep secret whatever is heard in the confessional? Am I correct?

    What is the basis of it? Can you give some kind of reference to support it's existence?

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  14. Small Town Guy... evidence? Do you mean scientific or experiential? People who have been to confession know the sense of peace they are left with afterwards. It is a peace not of this world.
    CA

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  15. Anonymous,

    "Small Town Guy... evidence? Do you mean scientific or experiential? People who have been to confession know the sense of peace they are left with afterwards. It is a peace not of this world.
    CA"

    No. I was challenging you to prove it is biblical and ordained by God to have men hearing people's innermost sins and giving penance and absolution. As a christian in a Reformed church, we don't believe that system is legitimate because it is not ordained in the Bible. Do you have anything at all, besides claims that it gives a "feeling" of peace. Feelings can be very dangerous and deceptive you know. The world is full of examples of people who have gone by their feelings and later been sorely disappointed. (If it feels good, do it?)

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  16. kabb,

    I don't think any gov't or law is going to take away your right to have secret confessions. My question is why do it if it isn't ordained by God and is therefore not of God? It was apparently declared an official dogmas in the year 1215 A.D. A relatively recent invention.

    ReplyDelete

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