Prime Minister Julia Gillard says using the seal of the Catholic confessional to cover up child abuse is a ‘‘sin of omission’’ because all adults have a duty of care towards children.
Ms Gillard says the terms of reference for the federal royal commission announced on Monday haven’t been set, and nor has the way evidence will be gathered and witnesses questioned.
‘‘That is going to be a matter for the royal commissioners we appoint,’’ she told reporters in Brisbane on Wednesday.
She said all parties including institutions and victims would be consulted carefully on the terms of reference.
When asked if the commission should examine the Catholic Church’s seal of the confessional, the prime minister agreed that it wasn’t good enough that some adults had been ‘‘averting their eyes’’ from the problem of child abuse.
‘‘Adults have got a duty of care towards children,’’ Ms Gillard said.‘‘It’s not good enough for people to engage in sin of omission and not act when a child is at risk.’’
Actually, maintaining the seal of the confessional supercedes all of that. Confession is where a person is forgiven of their sins so that they are able to enter eternal life (ie not go to Hell). The priest represents our Lord Jesus Christ, and has been given the power to forgive sins.
From John 20, just after Our Lord was ressurrected:
19 Now when it was late the same day, the first of the week, and the doors were shut, where the disciples were gathered together, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in the midst and said to them: Peace be to you. 20 And when he had said this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples therefore were glad, when they saw the Lord. 21 He said therefore to them again: Peace be to you. As the Father has sent me, I also send you. 22 When he had said this, he breathed on them; and he said to them: Receive the Holy Ghost. 23 Whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven them: and whose sins you shall retain, they are retained.
That was Jesus' entire mission, to set up a system whereby we can gain forgiveness and the friendship of God. That is why He poured out His blood on the Cross, for the forgiveness of sins, to save us. That's why the Church exists. It's not enough to confess directly to Jesus in your own mind, you need to go to one of His representatives, but your confession is treated exactly as if you only confessed in your own mind, ie it's totally private unless you choose to tell someone. That's why the Church has strict rules and severe penalties for any priest who reveals the contents of a Confession. It's an automatic excommunication that can only be overturned by the Holy See.
Senior federal Liberal frontbencher Christopher Pyne has declared that priests should report child sex abuse crimes revealed in the confessional to police.
On Wednesday, Mr Pyne - who is a practising Catholic - said that as a member of Parliament, it would be wrong of him to advise citizens not to report crimes, particularly something as serious as child abuse.
''If a priest, or anyone else, is aware of the sexual abuse of children that is going on, I think there is an obligation on them to report it to the appropriate authorities,'' he told ABC Radio.
A clueless Catholic politician. He might as well have said, I am Catholic, but I know nothing about my own faith and here is my opinion. He needs to practice a lot harder.
The thing is, priests cannot reveal anything that has been said in Confession, even to save their own lives. (see this story of a NZ Catholic priest who was killed by the Japanese in 1943).
On Tuesday, in the wake of Prime Minister Julia Gillard's announcement of a royal commission on child abuse, Cardinal George Pell said that the seal of confession was ''inviolable''.
Cardinal Pell said that if a priest knew what would be confessed prior to the confession, then they should refuse to hear it.
I think Cardinal Pell is feeling the pressure here. He really needs to stick to his guns on this one and say that priests cannot reveal the contents of a Confession and that's it. The best they can do in terms of making sure a serious offender doesn't take advantage of the seal, is to given Absolution conditional on the person handing themselves into police. If the person doesn't hand themselves in, then the confession does not forgive that person's sins.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott said that everyone has to obey the law when it comes to reporting child sex abuse, including priests.
"There are various requirements on people if they become aware of sexual offences against children," he told reporters in Brisbane on Wednesday.
"Those legal requirements must be adhered to."
What is it with these clueless Catholic politicians? I always thought Tony Abbott was one of the better ones, but his comments (unless he said more and it wasn't reported) seem to show he has no idea about Confession, either.
From : The Seal of the Confessional
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.
(Just as an aside, a great movie which deals with this very topic is Alfred Hitchcock's "I Confess," which deals with a priest who hears a murder confession and then is framed for the murder. As a priest, I was in agony during much of the movie.)
Related link : PM slams 'sin' of covering up abuse confessions