Wednesday, July 20, 2011

The Seal of the Confessional

Priest hearing confessions before Liturgy. Hol...

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Tribulation Times

July 21, 2011 

(Jas 5:16)  Confess therefore your sins one to another: and pray one for another, that you may be saved. For the continual prayer of a just man availeth much.

HEADLINE: Priests will to go to jail rather than break the seal of the confessional

A founding member of the Association of Catholic Priests has said he would he would rather choose to serve time in prison rather than break the seal of confession.

In the wake of the Cloyne report the Irish government stated that priests who fail to report child abuse disclosed to them during confession, to the relevant authorities could face up to five years in prison.

Writing in his Western People column Father Brendan Hoban said that the seal of confession outweighs "any form of professional confidentiality or secrecy."

"Priests do not just regard it as an absolute duty not to disclose anything that they learn from penitents in the confessional.  They know that if they reveal anything they have learned during confession to anyone, even under a threat of their own death or that of others, that they would be automatically excommunicated."

Canon law states: "Let the priest who dares to make known the sins o

f his penitent be deposed."

Under the seal priests cannot disclose anything they learn from their penitent.  Fr Hoban said the most any priest can do is encourage the person to surrender themselves to authorities.

BLOG: The Coming Persecution

EXCERPT FR. WILLIAM SAUNDERS: The Seal of the Confessional

When a person unburdens his soul and confesses his sins to a priest in the Sacrament of Penance, a very sacred trust is formed.  The priest must maintain absolute secrecy about anything that a person confesses.  For this reason, confessionals were developed with screens to protect the anonymity of the penitent.  This secrecy is called "the sacramental seal," "the seal of the confessional," or "the seal of confession."

The sacramental seal is inviolable.  Quoting Canon 983.1 of the Code of Canon Law, the Catechism states, "...It is a crime for a confessor in any way to betray a penitent by word or in any other manner or for any reason" (No.  2490).  A priest, therefore, cannot break the seal to save his own life, to protect his good name, to refute a false accusation, to save the life of another, to aid the course of justice (like reporting a crime), or to avert a public calamity.  He cannot be compelled by law to disclose a person's confession or be bound by any oath he takes, e.g.  as a witness in a court trial.  A priest cannot reveal the contents of a confession either directly, by repeating the substance of what has been said, or indirectly, by some sign, suggestion, or action.  A Decree from the Holy Office (Nov.  18, 1682) mandated that confessors are forbidden, even where there would be no revelation direct or indirect, to make any use of the knowledge obtained in the confession that would "displease" the penitent or reveal his identity.

A beautiful story (perhaps embellished with time) which captures the reality of this topic is the life of St.  John Nepomucene (1340-93), the

Franziskanerkirche Ueberlingen 03

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 vicar general to the Archbishop of Prague.  King Wenceslaus IV, described as a vicious, young man who easily succumbed to rage and caprice, was highly suspicious of his wife, the Queen.  St.  John happened to be the Queen's confessor.  Although the king himself was unfaithful, he became increasingly jealous and suspicious of his wife, who was irreproachable in her conduct.  Although Wencelaus tortured St.  John to force him to reveal the Queen's confessions, he would not.  In the end, St.  John was thrown into the River Moldau and drowned on March 20, 1393.

Each priest realizes that he is the ordained mediator of a very sacred and precious sacrament.  He knows that in the confessional, the penitent speaks not so much to him, but through him to the Lord.  Therefore, humbled by his position, the priest knows that whatever is said in confession must remain secret at all costs. 

Ladder of Divine Ascent excerpt: Step 29- "Concerning Heaven on Earth"

4. Some say, moreover, that dispassion is the resurrection of the soul before the body; but others, that it is the perfect knowledge of God, second only to that of the angels.

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