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Mr Walker

Seal of the confession

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Mr Walker
Posted (edited)

In my state, of South Australia,  two interesting things are happening ,

First, the highest catholic priest in the state has been convicted of failing to inform authorities of a known sex offender, several decades ago,  and faces a years gaol time, possibly on home detention due to his age and medical condition  

Second, the state is introducing laws which will legally compel priests to divulge any threats to children, or admissions of guilt,  heard under the confessional seal  

The church has already said it will not comply, as god's laws override state laws, and people's mortal souls may be put at risk if the y do not feel able to confess in secret   

They accept the state's  right to set the laws and will accept any punishment  for failing to notify, but will not break the confession. Not sure if every priest agrees, but this was the official response. Any priest who does break the seal would be excommunicated by the church under current church rules 

I am not sure if any jurisdiction, any where, has done this before, but how do people feel about it   

I know that Ireland and some american states were considering this but haven't checked what the results were. 

Edited by Mr Walker
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ouija ouija

It's 'stalemate', isn't it? But it's a start, making it a law that they have to report offences. I hope other countries follow suit.

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danydandan
Posted (edited)
1 hour ago, Mr Walker said:

In my state, of South Australia,  two interesting things are happening ,

First, the highest catholic priest in the state has been convicted of failing to inform authorities of a known sex offender, several decades ago,  and faces a years gaol time, possibly on home detention due to his age and medical condition  

Second, the state is introducing laws which will legally compel priests to divulge any threats to children, or admissions of guilt,  heard under the confessional seal  

The church has already said it will not comply, as god's laws override state laws, and people's mortal souls may be put at risk if the y do not feel able to confess in secret   

They accept the state's  right to set the laws and will accept any punishment  for failing to notify, but will not break the confession. Not sure if every priest agrees, but this was the official response. Any priest who does break the seal would be excommunicated by the church under current church rules 

I am not sure if any jurisdiction, any where, has done this before, but how do people feel about it   

I know that Ireland and some american states were considering this but haven't checked what the results were. 

Here is a link to what is defined as an obligation to report crimes in Ireland.

https://www.lawsociety.ie/Solicitors/Practising/Practice-Notes/Reporting-obligation-Criminal-Justice-Act-2011-s19/#.Wzye7pzhQeQ

In particular it's against the law to conceal most criminal activity, confession can be seen as concealment.

 

Edited by danydandan
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Timothy
Posted (edited)

@Mr Walker, I've been following this a little from VIC.

I'd be more than happy for anyone who tries to protect known sexual offending, or any other crime, to be subject to the full force of the law.

I respect religion, and as I've said before; I grew up in an atheist household, attended a catholic primary school,  parents did have a conversation with myself and my siblings that we could make our own choice, and ultimately chose atheism.

Religion does good things for a lot of people, but the time of the church protecting offenders is over, the Royal Commission is testament to that. The systematic failures and blatant irresponsibility have been exposed. It's time for change, and religion is not an excuse, whether you believe or not.

Edited by Timothy
typo.
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Timothy
Posted (edited)

What would you do if someone told you that they had been raped or otherwise? It's been disgusting whats been allowed to occur. We can help to change things.

Thanks for the link @danydandan, it's reasonable and helpful.

Edited by Timothy
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Sherapy
Posted (edited)
18 hours ago, danydandan said:

Here is a link to what is defined as an obligation to report crimes in Ireland.

https://www.lawsociety.ie/Solicitors/Practising/Practice-Notes/Reporting-obligation-Criminal-Justice-Act-2011-s19/#.Wzye7pzhQeQ

In particular it's against the law to conceal most criminal activity, confession can be seen as concealment.

 

In the state of California, we are one of 30 states in the United States that has mandatory reporting laws. 

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/courts/sd-me-clergy-notebook-20170429-story.htmlp

I am pleased to hear that Australia is catching up. 

 

Edited by Sherapy
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Timothy
Posted (edited)
28 minutes ago, Sherapy said:

In the state of California, we are one of 30 states in the United States that has mandatory reporting laws. 

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/courts/sd-me-clergy-notebook-20170429-story.htmlp

I am pleased to hear that Australia is catching up. 

It is good, but it’s also sad, as for many it’s a case of too little too late. Some people lives have been destroyed/changed forever, and there’s not really anything that can undo that. 

It also does make me wonder if anything ever happened at the rural church of the school I went to as a child. I have never heard anything of it, but unfortunately I can only be hopeful of that actually being the case. 

Edited by Timothy
Added a space.
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Mr Walker
21 hours ago, danydandan said:

Here is a link to what is defined as an obligation to report crimes in Ireland.

https://www.lawsociety.ie/Solicitors/Practising/Practice-Notes/Reporting-obligation-Criminal-Justice-Act-2011-s19/#.Wzye7pzhQeQ

In particular it's against the law to conceal most criminal activity, confession can be seen as concealment.

 

That is pretty well how I read the Irish law, but that was back in 2011 and the  still did not seem to have addressed the specific protection of the confessional.  How has it worked in practice?  Has any priest ever been charged with refusing to reveal information passed onto them under the confessional ?

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danydandan

Concealment is concealment regardless of what medium it takes.

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Mr Walker
3 hours ago, Sherapy said:

In the state of California, we are one of 30 states in the United States that has mandatory reporting laws. 

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/courts/sd-me-clergy-notebook-20170429-story.htmlp

I am pleased to hear that Australia is catching up. 

 

Australia has had mandatory  reporting laws since the 1970s, first for people like teachers, then for others  However there has never been a law specifically compelling priests to reveal  information given under the seal of the confessional  These new laws address this. I cant find ANY jurisdiction actually specifically mandating or compelling a priest to make public information fromthe confessionaL and i cant find any priest, anywhere, charged with refusing to do so (although this doesn't mean it hasn't happened.)  

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Mr Walker
2 minutes ago, danydandan said:

Concealment is concealment regardless of what medium it takes.

Unless there are specific exemptions, either by design or omission.

If Ireland has had this law since 2011, has it ever been applied to a single priest to compel them to come forward and testify in a court of law?  

Lots of places seem to have laws compelling notification of child abuse and making concealment  of a crime an offence. Australia has had  mandatory reporting of child abuse  for nearly 50 years,

Yet we have never applied them to a single priest, catholic or other, 

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Mr Walker
3 hours ago, Sherapy said:

In the state of California, we are one of 30 states in the United States that has mandatory reporting laws. 

http://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/courts/sd-me-clergy-notebook-20170429-story.htmlp

I am pleased to hear that Australia is catching up. 

 

Actually Sherapy your state is one which still makes an exception to confession when it comes to mandatory reporting.  And this does not just apply to catholic clergy 

From the source you provided

"According to state law, mandated reporters are required to disclose to law enforcement or Child Protective Services whenever they, in their professional capacity, know of or observe a child they have a reasonable suspicion is the victim of abuse.

But there’s an exception. Clergy are not required to report knowledge of abuse if it was acquired during penitential communication, the law states, meaning the information was revealed when no other person was present and with the expectation that it would be kept in confidence.

“Many people assume (it’s the Roman Catholic confession),” Graf said, referring to the definition of penitential communication under state law. “Most people think, traditionally, that’s what it is. It’s not. It’s far broader.”"

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Mr Walker
21 hours ago, Timothy said:

@Mr Walker, I've been following this a little from VIC.

I'd be more than happy for anyone who tries to protect known sexual offending, or any other crime, to be subject to the full force of the law.

I respect religion, and as I've said before; I grew up in an atheist household, attended a catholic primary school,  parents did have a conversation with myself and my siblings that we could make our own choice, and ultimately chose atheism.

Religion does good things for a lot of people, but the time of the church protecting offenders is over, the Royal Commission is testament to that. The systematic failures and blatant irresponsibility have been exposed. It's time for change, and religion is not an excuse, whether you believe or not.

As a teacher  i was required for most of my career to notify authorities of any suspected abuse of ANY child.

  I only had to do so a few times and it wasn't sexual but physical abuse  In all cases but one, the authorities said the behaviour was not abusive, just different to community norms.

In the other case, as soon as the mother was investigated she fled the state with  her children  and went underground, and I don't know if she was ever picked up .   In Australia, for a long time, all registers and authorities were state based without much connection. With the internet i think this may be changing, although child protection remains a state based matter 

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Mr Walker
21 minutes ago, danydandan said:

Concealment is concealment regardless of what medium it takes.

 This article seems to  support  your view, although the law was only passed in 2015.

https://www.theaustralian.com.au/national-affairs/in-depth/royal-commission/priests-in-other-countries-not-exempt-from-reporting-sex-abuse/news-story/8f292f16e9fe54c21b949de0cd9b55e4

 The findings of the report led to the introduction of legislation that requires priests to report abuse ­admitted in confession or face up to five years in jail. Mandatory ­reporting became law in November 2015.

There seem to be about 7 or 8 US states which mandate reporting of admissions given under the confessional  Many others, including California,make an exception for confessional admissions 

 

Guam, New Hampshire, and West Virginia deny the clergy-penitent privilege in cases of child abuse or neglect. Four of the states which dictate “any person” as a mandated reporter (including North Carolina, Oklahoma, Rhode Island, and Texas) also deny clergy-penitent privilege in child abuse cases.

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danydandan
Posted (edited)
26 minutes ago, Mr Walker said:

Unless there are specific exemptions, either by design or omission.

If Ireland has had this law since 2011, has it ever been applied to a single priest to compel them to come forward and testify in a court of law?  

Lots of places seem to have laws compelling notification of child abuse and making concealment  of a crime an offence. Australia has had  mandatory reporting of child abuse  for nearly 50 years,

Yet we have never applied them to a single priest, catholic or other, 

The law here is the law, Religion has no place in it. I'm unaware of a priest being compelled to break the confessional seal. Except for one in the Bronx, in New York.

The Children Frist Bill here basically states, “The Children First national guidelines emphasise that the needs of children and families must be at the centre of child care and child protection activity, and that a partnership approach must inform the delivery of services. They also highlight the importance of consistency between policies and procedures across statutory and voluntary organisations. The key message of Children First is that responsibility for protecting children must be shared by all adults. Anyone who works with, has responsibility for or comes into contact with children should be aware of the signs of abuse, be alert to the possibility of abuse and be familiar with the basic procedures to report their concerns.”

So everyone is compelled to report child abuse. Everyone includes priests, simply put. However it doesn't apply to all criminal activity and like I said concealment is the crime, not reporting isn't a crime unless it's child abuse.

However I don't see any priest breaking the Cannon Laws. However there is one instance where the breaking of the confessional seal is allowed it's to do with throwing away the Eucharist which means excommunication on the spot. I think it's Cannon Law 1360something.

Edit: 1367.

http://catholicstraightanswers.com/can-the-seal-of-confession-be-broken-or-the-secrets-ever-be-revealed-by-priests/

Edited by danydandan
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Golden Duck

Frank Brennan - a Jesuit and Professor of Law, writing for The Age -  asserts, in 31 years, he never heard a confession of child abuse and only one confession for murder, but that was anonymous.

I can only find two articles confusing the word confessor on the Commissions website and one of those gives done bizarre explanation of why a priest couldn't speak to the offender. There is case study on confession.

I vaguely recall Ridsdale being asked about his confessor; but, ultimately he was a secretive person.

Brennan also asserts that paedophile are secretive; and, the new law may have little effect. Other priests speculate it may deter confessions about certain sins.

It raises the question what is the Church worried about. A deterrent from something is rare will have little effect either way. And if it did happen the priest may have no evidence about the abuser or the victim.

For what it's worth, even if ineffectual, I can see any reason to exclude the Confessional from mandatory reporting of child abuse.

I'm not sure how theologians resolve the conflict of Canon Law and the broader idea of giving to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.

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danydandan
Posted (edited)

Regardless of all the above. If anyone thinks that the welfare of a child is trumped by the welfare of a confessional seal they seriously needs to reexamine themselves.

Edited by danydandan
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Timothy
10 minutes ago, Mr Walker said:

As a teacher  i was required for most of my career to notify authorities of any suspected abuse of ANY child.

  I only had to do so a few times and it wasn't sexual but physical abuse  In all cases but one, the authorities said the behaviour was not abusive, just different to community norms.

In the other case, as soon as the mother was investigated she fled the state with  her children  and went underground, and I don't know if she was ever picked up .   In Australia, for a long time, all registers and authorities were state based without much connection. With the internet i think this may be changing, although child protection remains a state based matter 

I'm glad it was only a few times, but props to you for reporting. It's easy for some to turn a blind eye.

I hope it's all consolidated ASAP. We don't have a numerous enough population to justify a non-federal and highly fallible system. It's definitely logistically possible.

Yes I'm just right now a keyboard warrior with this, but I do hope that things change soon. The only positive I can add is that myself and my friendship group (mostly 80's born) have extremely high acceptance and moral standards, country coast living in a semi-rural town has done us well...

If you know of any way for us to be directly involved in a change to current legislation, other than the publicly advertised channels, please let me know.

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Mr Walker
19 minutes ago, Golden Duck said:

Frank Brennan - a Jesuit and Professor of Law, writing for The Age -  asserts, in 31 years, he never heard a confession of child abuse and only one confession for murder, but that was anonymous.

I can only find two articles confusing the word confessor on the Commissions website and one of those gives done bizarre explanation of why a priest couldn't speak to the offender. There is case study on confession.

I vaguely recall Ridsdale being asked about his confessor; but, ultimately he was a secretive person.

Brennan also asserts that paedophile are secretive; and, the new law may have little effect. Other priests speculate it may deter confessions about certain sins.

It raises the question what is the Church worried about. A deterrent from something is rare will have little effect either way. And if it did happen the priest may have no evidence about the abuser or the victim.

For what it's worth, even if ineffectual, I can see any reason to exclude the Confessional from mandatory reporting of child abuse.

I'm not sure how theologians resolve the conflict of Canon Law and the broader idea of giving to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.

Good questions I also tend to the view that such reports under confession should be reported, but I see one problem  At present  a priest who finds out about an abused child and is torn about what to do can report it anonymously without giving details to an agency which is then obliged to investigate,     thus potentially rescuing the child.

If offenders know that priests might break the confessional they simply wont confess and the priest will never have  the opportunity to protect the child via reporting . 

Philosophically and without any experience of Catholicism)  if i was a priest who heard details of abuse i would report the abuse anonymously (as one can do in Australia ) but in a way tha t protected me as the source. Otherwise i WOULD be excommunicated from the church, if found out, and for any devout Catholic, let alone a priest, that is a very hard thing to face  for going public   

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Mr Walker
13 minutes ago, danydandan said:

Regardless of all the above. If anyone thinks that the welfare of a child is trumped by the welfare of a confessional seal seriously needs to reexamine themselves.

I agree 

But as above.  At present, if the priest goes public under his own name, in reporting, or in giving evidence, he WILL be excommunicated by the church.  That is a big ask, which is why i think an anonymous tip off would be better. eg " I have information that Joe Brown,  a 12 year old boy from Riverside Road is being sexually abused  and want to make a formal notification  of tha t fact. " 

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psyche101

That the church refused to comply I think says all we need to know. This is contempt for the people they should be protecting. I get that it might be a way to find them, but with nowhere to hide I'd like to hope some of them might think again before taking that first step. 

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danydandan
5 minutes ago, Mr Walker said:

I agree 

But as above.  At present, if the priest goes public under his own name, in reporting, or in giving evidence, he WILL be excommunicated by the church.  That is a big ask, which is why i think an anonymous tip off would be better. eg " I have information that Joe Brown,  a 12 year old boy from Riverside Road is being sexually abused  and want to make a formal notification  of tha t fact. " 

Have you seen that movie I Confess its a pretty good story about this discussion.

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psyche101
6 minutes ago, Mr Walker said:

I agree 

But as above.  At present, if the priest goes public under his own name, in reporting, or in giving evidence, he WILL be excommunicated by the church.  That is a big ask, which is why i think an anonymous tip off would be better. eg " I have information that Joe Brown,  a 12 year old boy from Riverside Road is being sexually abused  and want to make a formal notification  of tha t fact. " 

Then they let down their own as well as the supposed flock IMO. 

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danydandan
1 minute ago, psyche101 said:

That the church refused to comply I think says all we need to know. This is contempt for the people they should be protecting. I get that it might be a way to find them, but with nowhere to hide I'd like to hope some of them might think again before taking that first step. 

I think an honest priest would sacrifice their priesthood for the good of one of their parishioners. Our parish priest always said that.

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psyche101
Just now, danydandan said:

I think an honest priest would sacrifice their priesthood for the good of one of their parishioners. Our parish priest always said that.

They would certainly have the support of their parish. I could see a lot of protest from the public if a priest was to be excommunicated for doing the right thing. 

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