Catholic Priests Oppose ‘Report Pedophilia’ Bill in Ireland

Ireland’s Justice Minister Alan Shatter is planning to introduce legislation later this year that would put people in jail for 10 years if they withheld information that would help prosecute a child abuser.

Who would oppose legislation like that?

Catholics priests, of course. And Bill Donohue.

Spokesman Fr Sean McDonagh told the paper: “I certainly wouldn’t be willing to break the seal of confession for anyone — Alan Shatter particularly.”

Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin Raymond Field said: “The seal of the confessional is inviolable as far as I am concerned, and that’s the end of the matter.”

So if someone comes into the confessional booth and says, “I molest kids,” the only thing these priests will do is have them say a few Hail Marys.

Tell God? Sure. That’ll help…

Call the cops? Never. That would be unconscionable.

Is there any other organization that claims to care about children while actively harming them in the process?

(via Joe. My. God.)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Stev84

    There is a very simple solution to the confidentiality “problem”: the priest needs to make their absolution dependent on them turning themselves in. That way he doesn’t tell any secrets

    • Michael

      And what if they don’t? Sure they might, but if they choose to back out of absolution in exchange for not turning themselves in then we’re still in the situation that the priest knows a child is being molested and does nothing about it.

    • http://conuly.dreamwidth.org/ Conuly

       My understanding (based on talking to Catholics and my mother, who was raised Catholic) is that any priest worth is salt is going to make you turn yourself in if you go in to confess a serious crime like that. They’re NOT going to just let you off with a few hail marys.

      • Glasofruix

         Well, he certainly can’t really force you to do so.

      • chicago dyke, mediocre of lime

        which is why so many catholic priests who molested children and who are required to regularly confess only molested one child… oh, wait. that didn’t happen. 

        • tedseeber

          Catholic priests who molest children, don’t believe in the vow of celibacy and sure as hell ain’t going to confession about it.

    • Ana_v

      A priest cannot impose the disclosure of the penitent’s sin to a third party, as a condition for the absolution of the penitent.

      He is permitted however, to withhold absolution if he has grounds to believe that the penitent is being insincere.  

      Not only that, there is a criteria for a valid absolution, part of which falls on the confessor (the one hearing the confession), the other part, on the penitent. 

      “It presupposes on the part of the penitent, contrition, confession, and promise at least of satisfaction; on the part of the minister, valid reception of the Order of Priesthood and jurisdiction, granted by competent authority, over the person receiving the sacrament. (http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/01061a.htm )

      Among the things that makes an absolution invalid (i.e. non-existent) is if the penitent lies in the confessional (regardless of whether the confessor realizes it or not); if the penitent *willfully* witholds a mortal sin from the confessor; if the person is not truly repentant.  

  • Lauren

    War on Catholicism?  What about the war on children they are perpetuating?  Fuck Catholicism.

  • PJB863

    The proposed law, while noble in its intent, would be pretty much unenforceable as far as confessions are concerned.  You’d need someone to witness the priest being told something that needed to be reported.  It also fails to address the root of the problem – child molestation.  It only drives it underground even further.

    I also agree with Lauren’s comment.

    • RebeccaSparks

      It just about as enforceable as any other mandatory reporter, I would think.  You can’t force people to report, but you can sue the heck out of them when there is a legal obligation, and they’re reasonable proof they were informed but did not take action.

    • I_Claudia

      If I’m reading the intention of the bill right, that’s not quite the case. Of course, an actual confession, with the box and prayers and whatnot would be very difficult to prove, but that isn’t the actual intent of the bill.

      In the past, there has been evidence provided that bishops and other higher-ups in the church were aware of the abuse but never reported it to police. In many places a responsible adult not reporting child abuse is a crime itself BUT a carve-out is given to priests giving confession. The bishops and other priests who covered up the abuse simply had to declare that they became aware of it in the context of a confession and thus they were absolved of any legal responsibility to report it. The burden then fell on authorities (who are criminally negligent in investigating the church in the best of times) to prove that the person was told of the abuse outside of confession.

      This removes the loophole that have allowed hundreds of priests, bishops and cardinals to get away with collaborating in the protection of child rapists without facing legal penalties.

      • PJB863

        Just to clarify a point, when a person goes to confession, normally, the priest is not able to see the penitent’s face.  There is a heavy grate of some sort, and the confessional is dark, only the priest’s “booth” is lighted.  You can also use a phony accent to help disguise your voice.

        • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

          The confessional is not often used any more. In the case of the church I used to attend, they no longer have one. What they have is a small room where the priest & penitent meet … face to face.

          I suppose a penitent might be allowed to ask to be cloaked or obscured somehow, but I don’t see how it could be arranged, in that church anyway. There’s no place I know of where it could be done.

  • Miss_Beara

    They are more angry about the “feminist nuns” than they are about priests molesting children. Something wrong about that. 

  • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

    No law can force a priest to break the Seal of Confession. A priest who is true to his vows and personal conscience has to keep the confidence of a penitent, even at the cost of his own life. At least, until the church leadership develops enough morality to change the rules.

    But civil authority need not respect that. There’s no reason that the law is required to distinguish priests from anyone else who would be required to report knowledge of a crime. Just as a journalist can go to jail for protecting a source, so too can a priest for protecting a criminal. Both act according to their conscience, both must be prepared to pay the price for that.

    Religious beliefs should always be free of government interference. But there’s nothing that should protect religious action. No church, no religion, no church member should ever be held to different standards than any other organization or individual.

    • catholics_are_fools

      Priests should be mandated reporters.

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        If by that you mean there should be legal penalties for failing to report abuse, I agree. But a priest is in a tough spot. Morally, he must respect the Seal of Confession. And I can’t really disagree with that. I respect a person who is true to his beliefs, even if they are crazy beliefs.

        I think this could be approached a little differently. Don’t focus on the priests at all. They are not operating independently, but on behalf of their employer. If a psychiatrist who works for a hospital fails to report a crime, you can bet that the hospital will end up with significant liability. So when a priest fails to report a serious crime, let’s not just find the priest at fault, but his employer, who has created the rules he must operate under. Even after all the money paid out to settle child abuse cases, the Catholic Church has plenty of money to start paying a whole new class of lawsuits and criminal fines. It took big financial payouts to finally make the church start changing its ways with respect to abusive clergy; maybe the same strategy will work with changing the rules of confession.

        • Aoife

          You even respect beliefs that are harming children in a way that will scar them for life?  If we really want to  “respect” their beliefs, we should ask the priests if they think Jesus would think it’s moral not to report and try to stop the suffering of others. 

          • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

            Who said I respect these beliefs? I said that I respect a person who holds true to his deeply held beliefs. A priest who believes in the sanctity of the confessional and who reports a criminal based on something learned in confession is acting unethically. The fact that I happen to consider confession, or the very concept of sanctity, to be poorly conceived does not change that.

    • http://www.youtube.com/user/GodVlogger/featured GodVlogger (on YouTube)

      This is EXACTLY the PROBLEM.

      The Catholic Church has an INTERNAL LAW that is far less moral than the
      government’s secular laws, and the Catholics want special privileges to
      follow their IMMORAL internal-law.

      What if I knew very well that my neighbor was renting out his 7-year-old
      children as sex toys, BUT then  I said that I believed that Humpty
      Dumpty was my God and He didn’t want me to tell police. WHICH law should
      apply, the government’s moral secular law, or the immoral law based on
      myths and superstitions??

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        I believe secular law should always apply. But secular law can’t force somebody to act in a certain way, it can only punish them if they don’t. It is highly unethical for a priest to report a crime they learned about in confession; only a bad priest would do so.

        Punishing the priests isn’t the answer. Punishing the church might be. At the least, they have deep enough pockets to make some recompense to victims.

        • LeftSidePositive

          This isn’t actually true–it’s NOT unethical to report a crime confessed in confidence if there is a danger to others–for instance, doctors have the duty to warn people if they know their patient intends to do them harm.  It comes from the Tarasoff decision, where a doctor kept a patient’s confidence knowing he had violent intent toward someone, and then this someone was later murdered.

          So, given the extraordinary recidivism rate of child molesters, and the fact that the priest in all likelihood still has access to that child he victimized, a person learning that someone molested a child has more than sufficient evidence that the confessant is an imminent harm to others and thus the protection of confidentiality is void.  Or, at least it would be if we were talking about an ethical profession like doctors rather than self-serving thieves like priests who get special exemptions out of ethical behavior in our society.

          • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

            I disagree. It is unethical for a priest to break the seal of the confessional, even to report child abuse. Even to report murder, or a planned murder. If the priest actually believes the dogma of his church, his only ethical recourse is to follow Canon law. Doctors are not operating under the same dogma, so their ethical decisions are different.

            Religion in this case forces people into the position where what is ethical for them is bad for other people.  That is one of the great harms that religion causes.

            • LeftSidePositive

              No, “ethics” is the study of rationally-derived principles for pro-social, honest behavior, and as such operate independent of one’s dogma.  Dogma may be ethical or unethical (although I would say that in the vast majority of cases, adhering to dogma for its own sake is fundamentally unethical because rationality is an ethical obligation in order to determine the real effects of one’s actions in the real world), but the ethical judgement is a result of study of the benefits and harms to the individual and society, and as such ethics cannot change because of dogma. 

              If something is bad for other people, it is by definition unethical, and a different cultural context does not erase that.  So, it may be “unpriestly” or “unCatholic” to break the seal of confessional, but it is still ethical to do so (indeed, ethically required) in the case of imminent harm to others.

              • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                I don’t think there are any absolutes in discussing what is or is not ethical. What is ethical for one person may be unethical for another. Ethics change with society, with time, with culture.

                • LeftSidePositive

                  No, actually that undermines the entire principle of ethics.  Ethics concerns itself fundamentally with what we SHOULD do, not with what is done. As such, absolutes are essential: keep in mind, specifications do not undermine the absoluteness, i.e., “it is wrong to kill another human except to protect yourself or others from imminent danger” is still absolute even though it contains specifications.

                  Human beings have certain fundamental needs: to have control over our bodies, to have access to food, shelter, and safety, to be free of pain, to feel social bonds, etc., etc.  No amount of cultural relativism is going to change these basic drives of our neurobiology.In a society that holds slaves, we do not say it is ethical in that society to hold slaves–there is still an utterly unacceptable level of human suffering being perpetuated–rather, we say (or at least we should) that such a society is unethical and reprehensible. While our *understanding* of what is ethical must of necessity change (much like our understanding of all branches of knowledge), this means that we are getting better at respecting and achieving the fundamental needs of humans, and therefore are able to be more ethical, not that our previous ignorance and/or harmful behavior was just as ethical.

                • BlahBlahBlah

                  The idea of absolute morality/ethics is just as bad as the idea that “it’s all relative.” The people in those societies who believed slavery was acceptable also believed that ethics was absolute.
                  It does not “undermine the entire principle of ethics” to say that absolutes are not right. That’s a pretty ridiculous statement. It does, however, encumber the possibility of changing ethical ideas.

                  The best way to deal with ethics nowadays is to hold-fast to your own ethical beliefs AND be willing to enter into discourse with others with a more open mind considering that you “might” be wrong. We’re in a society and ethics is both deeply personal and incredibly social.

                  Unless you’re going to claim that ethics are some kind of “dictate from some sort of authority” (which can be some god or even dictates of “reason” [Here's looking at you, Kant]). In which case, the argument becomes about the authority of blah blah blah and the ethical discussion is lessened. The roots of ethics are not from any form of authority but from the individual and shared experience of life. The individual part explains why you and I might differ; the shared part explains why you and I might have similar ideas. And understanding that explains why you and I can affect each other’s ethical beliefs.

                • LeftSidePositive

                  You have provided no argument as to why absolutes are NOT accurate, you’ve just called it “ridiculous.” So, actually try to make an argument as to why “it is wrong to kill another human except to protect yourself or others from imminent danger” should not be absolute.

                  Furthermore, the idea that there is an absolute requirement for fundamental ethical principles does not in ANY way mean that we can’t change our ethical ideas–in fact, I argued exactly the OPPOSITE, that human beings MUST seek greater understanding of ethical ramifications and adjust our practical ethics to our greater understanding.

                  Furthermore, the very fact that you concede the point that if you compare ethics with someone and realize you might be “wrong” means that in fact there ARE absolute ethics that our understanding is trying to approximate, because if there weren’t and ethics were relative, there would be no way you could be “wrong.”

                  I have no idea what you even mean with that strange tangent about authority, especially as I defined ethics as a rational study of benefits and harms for the individual and society, and your conflation of reason and authority is just deeply, deeply confused.

                • BlahBlahBlah

                  Well, you clearly don’t know much about ethics because that
                  “conflation” was just an allusion to Kant (who essentially took
                  religious “religious authority as the source of ethics” and put
                  “reason” in its place).

                   

                  “A study of benefits and harms to the individual and
                  society” is simplistic. Ethics is not an analysis of harms/benefits (per
                  your central point earlier mentioning “fundamental needs” and
                  neuro-biological drives). To say that it’s only that means that a lot of
                  “reprehensible” things are allowed. Rationally, the number of people
                  benefiting from the murder of an innocent or the preemptive attack of
                  a country could lead you to have to condone those actions (look into the
                  dilemma of “is it morally permissible to kill an innocent man”). But
                  maybe you want to elaborate on that and put exceptions to your own rules and
                  “things that cannot ever be done no matter how many people benefit.”
                  In which case, things get complicated, more realistic, a little more arbitrary
                  (“cause it feels wrong”), and a bit more relative.

                   

                  The idea that “you could be wrong” in no way concedes
                  the idea of a universal ethics. First, to suggest that you take the “you
                  could be wrong” stance is to be sensitive to the well-known fact that ALL
                  people take their ethical statements to be “factual” statements (even
                  though they differ in what those factual statements are). It’s like saying: in
                  actuality, there is no free will, but you can’t help feeling “free”
                  anyway and there are plenty of benefits to acting as if you are “free,” so
                  act as if you are “free” despite having that knowledge. Does that mean that
                  that person is saying that there is “free will”? No. So, you know that there
                  are no absolutes in ethics, so blah blah blah (you get it).

                   

                  Second, if there were some magical book with all these absolute
                  ethical guidelines (written into our genes or something or even waiting to be
                  thought out rationally or some “equation” of benefits/harms [it just
                  makes no sense for absolutes to “exist” so bear with this terrible metaphor]),
                  no one would be able to come to that in the same way. Humans are fallible and,
                  as you know, take away different things from the same exact experiences. So,
                  even if they were to encounter these absolutes, there would be variation on
                  what is taken away from it. Ethics are a human, individual, and societal thing.
                  If it doesn’t exist an as absolute there (like 2 + 2 exists in an absolute),
                  then it’s not an absolute (even though it’s an absolute in some written form).

                   

                  I don’t have to argue with your proposed absolute, because I agree
                  with it. My issue is with your general presentation of ethics. It’s simple,
                  inadequate, and no better than what has come before it. First, ethics/morality
                  were edicts from some form of higher authority (be it gods or nobles). Then, it
                  was (and this is where you still seem to be) the absolute result of rational/logical
                  endeavors. Now, people are realizing that there’s more to it than that and that
                  something like “emotions” plays a big role in how people make their ethical
                  judgments and that there’s a sense of moral dumbfounding at which point some
                  people can’t even explain why something is “wrong.” “Oh, but that’s not
                  rational,” you say. Ok, but then there’s the fact that the people who make
                  rational ethical judgments have been found to be predictably susceptible to many
                  of the same biases that appear when making other decisions (most important
                  being the framing effect) and then their ethical judgments don’t reflect their
                  ethical principles. And their ethical judgments of situations vary depending on
                  irrelevant information (two system theory of moral judgment). Hmmmm…

                   

                  You’re right, though. Ethics is concerned with what we SHOULD do,
                  but that’s always constricted by what we CAN do. Absolutes are nice and all.
                  They simplify things and they help guide your own decision making and judgment
                  (though not absolutely). However, ethics are a human project and, unless
                  someone determined a goal for it in the beginning of time, it doesn’t aim for
                  any specific thing. Rather, it aims for many, many things and plenty of these
                  things are in conflict with each other (Bernard Williams stuff on values is
                  great to read on this point).

                • LeftSidePositive

                  Oh, goodness, you are just wrong on so many,many levels,that it hurts.

                  1) The fact that someone, somewhere, claimed something was reasonable when it wasn’t DOESNOT mean that reason itself is flawed or that reason itself is authoritarian–it just means that one person reasoned incorrectly.

                  2) Your claim that assessing benefits and harms means reprehensible things will be allowed is a complete non-sequitir.  If it is “reprehensible” it is by definition so harmful as to be inexcusable and therefore unethical.  Furthermore, you seem totally incapable of grasping the extraordinary harm that invading a country preemptively does, and what killing an innocent person does to the fabric of society and in our ability to trust one another. An assessmentof the harms done in violating basic human rights–and the extraordinary harm that this is to the individual and to humanity at large–is perfectly able to be incorporated into an assessmentof benefits and harms unless you are laughably simplistic in what you interpret a harm to be.

                  3) I take my ethical principles to be *provisionally* factual statements, the same way I take all scientific knowledge.  Scientific knowledge, like ethical understanding, may be wrong and frequently has to be revised, but this does not mean that there is no discernable truth as to whether the Earth is round, or what DNA codons represent, or how quarks work. Your free will analogy fails because that involves extrapolating from subjective experience to objective external truth, whereas there is abundant external evidence for the absolute necessity of certain ethical principles in the form of all the harm that was caused without them (see: slavery, Nazi medical experiments, reproductive coercion, state control of speech, etc., etc.).

                  4) The fact that people cannot necessarily come to natural truths in the same way in no way means these truths are less absolute–we have abundant gaps in our understanding and differences of opinion of the natural laws of physics, and these aren’t written down anywhere, but the truth of these laws is no less absolute for the fact that we don’t fully understand it yet. Same with ethics–we are still working out details, but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t an ideal that we need to understand as best we can. Furthermore, the fact that ethics are based on humans does not make them any less absolute–medicine is based on the study of humans and we don’t go around saying that different medical practices could be acceptable in different societies–we understand that physiology dictates that some treatments will be absolutely better than others, and it is the incompleteness of our understanding, NOT the lack of absoluteness in what works for a human body and what doesn’t.  Again, complicated sets of situations do not make what to do IN EACH SITUATION any less absolute.

                  5) I didn’t ask whether you agree with it–I asked whether you disagree with WHETHEROR NOT IT IS ABSOLUTE.  Make an arguement for why this shouldn’t be considered an ethical absolute. I argue that it IS absolute, because any possible justification for killing someone must fall into the imminent harm category, because otherwise we are acting out of selfishness and sadism and cheating someone out of their only chance at life, and this suffering is consistent across people and time.

                  6) How we make ethical judgementsis a wholly separate question from that of what is actually ethical, because human mindsare notoriously imperfect and have lots of cognitive biases.  So, just because people use emotions in their ethical reasoning does NOT in ANY WAY mean that their resulting beliefs or behaviors are ethical.

                  7) Ethics aims for lots of  different things, just like medicine aims for lots of different things, but both of these disciplines can have their goals broadly termed under “prosociality and happiness” and “health,” respectively.No one devised a particular goal for medicine at the beginning of time, and yet no one feels the need to be mushy about the fact that we can definitively state that treatment X works better in situation A than treatment Y.  The fact medicine is a human project in no way means that it can’t have its efficacy and goals objectively determined, and the fact that people make different medical judgement doesn’t mean that there isn’t an objectively “better” and “worse” that we must try to understand over time with better data and better reasoning.

                • BlahBlahBlah

                  Hmmm, are you telling me that it hurts because you are
                  suggesting that it’s unethical for me to respond and cause you more pain?

                   

                  When it comes to ethics, things like values and such also
                  are important in determining the harms/benefits. I’m glad that you mentioned
                  that you don’t have a “simplistic” view of harm because now we can get into a
                  more interesting discussion…but this is a terrible f-ing forum for that. I
                  could barely read what you wrote, and I’m sure you had the same problem.

                   

                  I enjoy discussing ethics…especially with people who don’t
                  resort to “well the bible…” (ugh, so tired of that). This kind of discussion is
                  the kinds of discussions that are important for ethics in general. If you want
                  to continue, just e-mail me here: BlahBlahBlah AT Guerrillamail.com.

                • LeftSidePositive

                  [Replying here to your comment several replies in because it's unreadable over there.]

                  I’m saying your wrongness hurts, so I only mean it’s unethical to reason badly (for many reasons apart from the fact that it causes me pain), not that it is necessarily harmful to respond in any manner–a better-reasoned response would not be painful. Anyway, I was probably more snarky than I needed to be, so I apologize…

                  Btw, if you have Disqus set up to automatically email you for replies, you can read very nested comments in your mail program without having them half an inch wide like they are here. It helps :-)

                  Anyway, I genuinely appreciate the offer to discuss this at more length but I’m pretty busy this week, and I shouldn’t have gotten so into the discussion in the first place but, well, you know how it goes!!

                • Taxihorn

                  What changes is everyone’s understanding of the facts, causing people to update their understanding of ethics. If you really believe in eternal torture, then you have different priorities and a different ethical understanding than someone who doesn’t. The complication: this leads to multiple “right” answers, which is fine in personal matters such as musical taste, but downright horrible when it involves the safety of others, especially when they are the most vulnerable of people. This is where, by the very definition of ethics, empathy must be built into the system, and that seems fairly absolute to me.

                • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                  While I understand the arguments for absolute morality, I don’t agree with them. It is by fabricating such artificial absolutes that religion creates much of its harm. If we don’t abandon absolute morality, we might as well have religion as well.

                  In my view, ethical and moral viewpoints can only come from within. A society will, of course, define a set of ethics based on some sort of consensus, and will create methods to enforce those over individual beliefs, but that changes nothing.

                  An ethical person is one who is true to his beliefs.

                • LeftSidePositive

                  Who are you to say an absolute is artificial?  Would you care to make an argument as to why “it is wrong to kill another human except to protect yourself or others from imminent danger” is not actually absolute?

                  I also think you’re conflating absolutes based on repeated, verifiable evidence that have withheld a great deal of logical scrutiny to absolutes declared on the basis of superstitious nonsense.  The superstition is the problem, not the possibility of absolutes–human rights are, for instance, things we have discovered to be ethical absolutes.

                  “Coming from within” is absolute nonsense–this evades critical thinking and leads to a degree of subjectivity that defies the very point of valuing ethics and a healthy society in the first place.  By your extremely misguided definition, Charles Manson is an ethical person because he is true to his beliefs.

                • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                  I don’t know of any moral absolutes… including your example of killing. I don’t believe there is such a thing as a human right, except to the extent that we can create them and defend them.

                  I’m fully prepared to believe that Charles Manson is an ethical person. I don’t know what he believed, or why he acted as he did. If he really was true to his beliefs, and did not believe that what he was doing was wrong, than in my book he acted ethically. (I doubt that’s the case, however).

                  But acting ethically does not absolve one of a responsibility to society and societal ethics, either. If your actions drift too far from societal norms, society is going to take some sort of actions to defend itself.

                • LeftSidePositive

                  In that case your definition is absolutely useless, but let’s keep playing this ridiculous game!!  If you can redefine “ethics” to mean anything and everything you could possibly want with no regard for how you are understood or whether or not the word is even useful anymore by your absurd definition, then I’ll say that we’re all cannibals because I’m just going to define”human” to be whatever I want it to be, and since all living things are related, we’re clearly eatingour own kind when we dig into a chicken, or a spear of asparagus!!Then I’ll waste lots of people’s time on the internet talking about how we’re all cannibals and I’ll totallyignore any relevant pointsto be made accodring to commonly-accepted definitions, and just engage in verbalmasturbation over my self-declared definitions!!

                • LeftSidePositive

                  I more or less agree, but I will add the matter that being ethical REQUIRES you to understand what is true in the world in order to accurately perceive benefits and harms.  So, once we have sufficient understanding that eternal torture isn’t real (or, more precisely, there is no evidence or reason to think it is), it is unethical to believe in it, and very unethical to act on it.  This doesn’t mean that there are multiple “right” answers, this means that the initial primitive judgment of ethics was flawed due to inaccurate premises.

            • alconnolly

              As others have noted. If a priest has developed an internal understanding of ethics, that says he cannot report someone who abuses/kills children. He can follow his conscience. If his conscience violates laws that protect the innocent, he can go to prison and suffer the consequences of his private conscience. If my conscience requires me to harm children, you would not argue that should make me exempt from the laws that would punish that behavior would you? No! Let the law punish those who protect evildoers, and let the ones punished fell good internally that from their perspective they suffer “for righteousness sake”.

              • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                There are many figures throughout history who suffered punishment because their personal ethics differed significantly from the norms of their societies: Mandela, Ghandi, even Jesus if you believe the stories.

                • alconnolly

                   Exactly. So the law should stand as is to protect the children, and the priest should do like Gandhi, Mandela and Jesus which is gladly receive punishment for what their conscience tells them. The fact that by the standards of caring about children’s welfare their conscience is completely screwed up is irrelevant, but they should not get legal protection for thinking like that. They are free to practice their religious views, and if their views require them to break laws protecting children they should gladly suffer the consequence. Not try to fight the law. If my “religion” required me to rape children society would rightly mock my claim that making laws against child rape was “war against my religion”, and I would need to accept, that practicing my “faith” will land me in jail, not try to get a legal exception carved out. Capeesh?

                • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

                  Who are you trying to convince? I certainly haven’t argued anywhere that personal ethics should trump civil law. I’ve argued just the opposite.

                  Acting ethically does not necessarily mean acting legally.

            • http://profile.yahoo.com/3LNPY47R2SLZXNVORMSYDTD3ZM credensjustitiam

               So it’s more important to keep a pinky promise than it is to prevent a child from being abused?

            • http://twitter.com/Stooshie Andrew Wilson

              So, lets say, for sake of argument, you’re a priest. A child molestor confesses his crimes to you. You take whatever steps the catholic church allows, but the molestor keeps offending and sticking his penis into children (because that is what we are talking about here).

              Had you reported him to the police, he would have been in prison and not been able to do that.

              However, he keeps coming to you, confessing crime after crime but, you still don’t report him.

              Are you really arguing that is ethical?

        • http://twitter.com/Stooshie Andrew Wilson

          A psychiatrist or doctor would be required to report an active child molestor, on pain of being struck off and even legal repercussions.

          Just because someone pretends to be speaking for an imaginary god should not let them off the hook.

    • BlahBlahBlah

      This is exactly how I saw it. And well expressed.
      Sort of the idea of Mandated Reporters, but not. They should not be compelled to testify. However, if it becomes evident that they knew and did not say anything about an ongoing or future crime, then they should suffer the legal consequences.

      Isn’t plenty of their own histories about the suffering of these kinds of consequences for their faith anyway? Maybe, if you are unwilling to suffer the consequences of a possible jail sentence, you should question how much faith you have in that doctrine to begin with. It’s not like they’re being fed to lions because they won’t change their faith. Keep your faith, but protect the “flock” you care so much about.

    • http://twitter.com/69wyocowboy Silas Richardson

      I would disagree with you because it seems that religion can NOT hold up morality that they say they do, C Peterson!  I am a social worker and I have seen where religious people, not just preist/preachers/rabbi’s don’t report but people within the church.  I would ask you so religion trumps children safety?  I would answer a big fat “NO”.  If you answer yes to that question then you need help.

    • http://www.facebook.com/rlyndallwemm Rosemary Lyndall-Wemm

       Unfortunately, proving that a priest was privy to information about a crime via the confessional would be next to impossible.  If we could, then the Catholic Church in Ireland could collapse because most of its priests were in jail as convicted felons.   Considering the severity of the crimes that they have been shielding their claim to religious martyrdom might not succeed as well as it would have half
      a century ago.

  • Brian Thomson

    The mention of Alan Shatter by name “particularly” is not just because he’s the Justice Minister: he’s also Jewish, and thus likely to have little innate sympathy for the “special position” of Catholicism in Ireland. When I heard he got that job, I remember thinking “ah-ha, this’ll be interesting”…

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-Evans/1017276335 John Evans

    An organization that claims to care about children while actively harming them? NAMBLA.

    • BinaryStar

      True, but NAMBLA has few supporters, aside from its members, and ZERO political sway. Comparing it to the Catholic Church is like comparing a flea to an elephant.

  • http://considertheteacosy.wordpress.com/ Aoife

    Y’know, it’s not just ’cause of the economy that we want to emigrate. in. droves.

    I mean, it’s mainly the economy. But crap like this could just be the final straw that makes a person book their flights the hell out of here.

  • http://profiles.google.com/soonovi Soo Novi

    This is the bottom line (and I keep saying this hoping that folks will pick up and pass on the mantra): Any “belief” that harms another is a persecution and deserves neither tolerance nor freedom.  That’s it.  Bottom line.  No debates, no discussions, no studies.  That’s all crap.  Your “right” to swing your fist ends at my face.  If your religion harms another or denies them equal treatment under the law then your religion is a persecution and should be stamped out.   If you don’t like that then perhaps you should examine your doctrine a bit closer, but that’s on you not the rest of society.

  • http://www.laughinginpurgatory.com/ Andrew Hall

    War on Catholicism, is that kinda like the War on Cancer?

  • TheAnalogKid

    Take it away, Tim . . . 

    http://youtu.be/fHRDfut2Vx0

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    Is this law actually going to reduce any harm, or will it just discourage people from confessing in the first place?  Would you also support a law that put lawyers in jail for withholding information condemning their own clients?

    • Coyotenose

      Abolishing attorney-client privilege would be tantamount to abolishing the civil right to not incriminate oneself. It would also make it impossible for a defendant to competently defend himself on the basis that he can’t speak freely about his defense to ANYONE.

      The Catholic confessional is not in any way related to civil rights, except that one is free to attend it per Freedom of Religion.

      If such a law discourages child molestors from going to confession, complaining about that is akin to complaining that police patrols make rapists less likely to be on the streets. Denying sanctuary and succor to criminals is never a bad thing.

      • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

        Well as long as you admit that the purpose of the law is to deny sanctuary and succor to criminals rather than actually reducing harm to victims…

        • Coyotenose

           A empowers B in most cases. That’s one reason why we have “Accessory After The Fact” laws. Which, come to think of it, is what this really is.

        • amycas

           I used to work with preschool-aged children, and by law I was required to report (can be done anonymously) even a suspicion of child abuse. Seriously, if a guy confesses a crime to his neighbor, the neighbor can report it, why is it different for priests?

      • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

         (Note that I’m not necessarily opposed to the law. I thought I_Claudia made some good points above about how it could actually reduce harm.)

    • quantheory

      Attorney-client privilege already does not cover situations where the client is seeking to perform or cover up a crime, and requests the lawyer’s assistance. You can’t tell a lawyer that you’re a child molester, ask them to help you mislead a jury into thinking otherwise, and expect to be covered under attorney-client privilege. All confidentiality has limits.

    • RebeccaSparks
    • David McNerney

      If you look at this in context, it is clear that the intent is not to protect children nor is it to actually break the seal of confession.  This doesn’t actually change anything.

      But what it does do is send a very clear message to Rome: “You are not above the law.”  A message that Irish government has been sending since the publishing of the report into abuse in the Cloyne Diocese and the RCC’s contempt for the Irish jurisdiction.

    • amycas

       attorney-client privilege (as well as doctor-patient confidentiality) can be violated if the attorney knows the client is going to hurt somebody. But then agian, Catholic priests are not attorneys or doctors. I don’t see why they should have this privilege.

  • http://www.facebook.com/AnonymousBoy Larry Meredith

    I’d love to see them add an exemption for religion on this.

    • I_Claudia

       Generally mandatory reporting laws cover crimes (usually violence, but sometimes also fraud/theft) committed against a vulnerable group. Though this is most commonly thought of as children, the elderly, the disabled and even in some cases battered women are also covered, depending on the crime. My limited understanding is that both requirements and enforcement vary rather wildly, and at least in the US clergy are usually exempt, I imagine along the same lines as psychologists and lawyers.

      • quantheory

        I was not under the impression that either psychologists or lawyers have an exemption for this. In fact, their professional ethics would seem to forbid hiding evidence of ongoing child abuse. Even lawyers are expected to notify a judge (in private) if they expect a client to, e.g. commit perjury, and that’s not even a situation where another person’s well-being is at stake.

      • Onamission5

        To the best of my knowledge, mental health professionals are not exempt in cases of violent felonies, and are in fact mandatory reporters for abuse.

      • http://travelingtxn.blogspot.com/ Traveling Txn

        Actually, I know for a fact that nurses, psychologists, and other medical personnel are required by law to report child abuse, elder abuse, and a few other abuses to law enforcement if they have any real reason at all to suspect it. Patient confidentiality is void in those types of situations.  So why should priests get to have an exemption?  No one else does and why would they want to?

        • Sue Blue

          It’s just another example of how religion gets a free pass in this country – and it’s reprehensible.  As an RN I am legally required to report suspected child or elder abuse, gunshot wounds, etc.  If I don’t, I can be charged with professional negligence (malpractice), among other things.  No one should be exempt from this societal moral duty.

      • Katie

        Others are correct! Psychologists are mandatory reporters for abuse and crimes and other acts that put other people in harm!

      • Salty

        Psychologists, therapists, social workers and counselors are generally mandated reporters for various types of abuse.  If there is a reasonable suspicion of child abuse, I am required to report immediately or risk losing my license as a Marriage and Family Therapist.   It seems appropriate for clergy to have similar requirements, given their position.

  • stephanie

    I wonder if Donohue realizes how intentionally funny his wording is? To the casual reader, he just linked priests and sex abuse as some integral part of the catholic faith within two sentences. He should write for stand up.

  • graingert

    The Missionary Church of Kopimism takes advantage of this nutty law by declaring all tracker and peer/seed BitTorent communication to be equivalent to catholic holy confession.

  • Heintje_K

    But…but…if that bill gets passed, more molestation cases will come to light, and the Vatican will have to fork out enormous amount of money to settle lawsuits! The Vatican will have to sell their assets, and the pope may no longer be able to afford to pay for new hat.

    Think of the pope, will ya! What would become of him without that silly hat!

  • Glasofruix

    Oh, so what happens in church, stays in church, right? Then how about the church minding its own business about people’s private (and legal) matters?

  • quantheory

    “I certainly wouldn’t be willing to break the seal of confession for anyone — Alan Shatter particularly.”

    Right, because this is totally about Shatter and not about protecting children. Dear heavens, how callous and self-centered do you have to be to be more worried about a politician you don’t like than the abuse of innocents? The Catholic Church seems to exemplifying the very flaws it accuses “modern secular society” of at every turn.

    • Derrik Pates

      Well, the Catholic Church had no problem covering up for pedophiles within their own ranks for decades (as we now know all too well). Why should they care about anyone else doing it?

      • quantheory

         That’s true. What somehow continues to shock me is how many Church officials don’t even seem to put in the effort to look like they really care. It’s not even “We care about the children, but here’s why we think our concerns are still reasonable…” Instead they just blatantly sneer at the idea that anyone *else* could hold them morally accountable for their actions. They conceal thousands of cases of rape and other physical abuse for decades, and then claim persecution when they get told that they have to stop it.

        If some super-powerful, super-secret society spent a thousand years trying to craft an organization that was nothing but hypocrisy incarnate, I’d be surprised if they could produce an organization half as self-contradictory, half as unabashedly authoritarian and corrupt, as the Vatican has become all on its own. All while producing a constant stream of real charity, and oppression masquerading as “charity”, and actual criminal activity, all intertwined almost to the point of being inseparable.

        It’s a terrible marvel of nature, like HIV or a tsunami. The very existence of something like the Catholic Church is evidence against the type of God it claims to worship, because a truly good God would never let something like the Catholic Church persist in its claim to represent the interests and desires of the Almighty.

      • http://twitter.com/ElizabethMoor31 Elizabeth Moore

         The SS/HSE still cover up for rape of children in their care.

        Nothing has changed.

        The child rapists are not always men in frocks, but those paid to care for the children.

        because the priests got away with it, why not lay people? who call themselves social workers in Ireland, but are really facilitators for the child rapist rings.

        Torture, rape, abuse, death  and ECT are the order of the day in the Irish “care” system.

        ECT used to burn out memories of the abuse- keep it all hidden lest children talk and sue.

        It is all kept hidden using the same system as the Roman church- for they control the courts and various depts involved.

        If only people would research.

  • http://www.nomadity.com/ MoSoLoCo

    I agree with Peterson. No priest can break it. But, we should remember the fact that these laws are for our own sake. Think back if it was your child?

  • http://onefuriousllama.com/ onefuriousllama

    If their God was real and actually protected children we wouldn’t need these secular laws. Unfortunately (or fortunately…), that figment of their imagination does sweet fuck all and so we need secular laws to do the job of their deity. And then they get all pissy when we require them to do the right thing and help protect children?

    Gah. The rage.

  • Miko

    From a consequentialist perspective, this is a bad law.  While past abuse is unfortunate, the primary social function of punishing molesters is to prevent future molestation.  Oftentimes punishment is a good way to achieve this goal, but oftentimes it isn’t the best way.  If talking to a priest can help someone change their life so that they stop molesting children, then that’s probably a better result than merely locking that person in a prison cell for the sake of meaningless revenge.  If it’s widely known that priests can’t be trusted to not tell things like this to the police, the main result is that people won’t tell priests about things like this.  Seeing as the people who are currently willing to tell priests about this sort of thing are probably among the people most likely to change their behavior if prompted, the net result of this law would be more molestation.  Lousy law.

    Is there any other organization that claims to care about children while actively harming them in the process?

    Many organizations do this, as people can often be led to harm children when they think they’re helping them, especially when they haven’t fully thought through the effects of their actions.  For example, as I noted above, the government involved here is an organization that’s going to end up hurting children in the name of helping them if they end up passing this law.  That doesn’t mean that they’re objectively evil, but only that they will end up causing harm through their ignorance.

    • jdm8

      I’d like to know if talking to a priest really helps people to avoid relapsing into hurting children.  Even very intensive, invasive treatment programs fail far more often than not, forgive me for doubting that someone talking to a priest on occasion is going to alter behavior.

      • hoverFrog

        Christianity seems to have no positive impact for depression  LINK.  There is no reason to believe that it would have any positive impact on other mental illnesses. I consider paedophilia to be a serious mental illness, apologies to anyone who suffers from another mental illness.

        Given the high incidence of child rape among priests (apparently three times that of other professions) and given that priests presumably confess as much as, if not more than, members of the public then it is a pretty safe bet that confession does not reduce recidivism for child rape and molestation.

      • amycas

         I would also counter that reformation of the criminal is not the only purpose of putting them in jail. The other purpose is retribution. That person has harmed somebody and they should pay the penalty for it. Now, I’m not one for blood lust, and I would never advocate the death penalty or forced castration, but spending time in jail for molesting children is a fair punishment. I’m glad if somebody wants to get help and stop. That’s great, but they should still be punished for their offense.

        • jdm8

          I agree.  The penalty of prison is also supposed to serve as a deterrence.  

          The intensive treatment programs I was referencing was from within a prison sentence, in the hopes of making them safe for society when they’re released.  Allowing the abusers to be free and just talk to a priest at their leisure just didn’t strike me as effective treatment anyway.

    • teressa81

       Confession does not turn a child sex offender towards repentance and health. Therapy does. Years and years of interactive, push and pull, dynamic therapy.  If confession was all it took to turn an offender away from that path, it wouldn’t be anywhere near as rampant a problem as it is today. A good deal of sex offenders – especially those who hurt children – feel conflicted and guilty. Simply expelling those thoughts once a week is not going to be enough to work through that (and that is assuming that it can be worked through at all.)

      A child molester rarely molests one child once in their lives. They victimize children over and over – sometimes the same child, sometimes others – but it’s rarely a one time deal. So turning in a confessed child sex offender DOES help children – it helps the next one who was going to be hurt.

      Childhood sexual abuse is an issue so tangled and so inherently dark and depressing and horrifying that to say “maybe they’ll feel really bad about it after awhile and stop” is to cheapen and minimize the horror that those victims lived.

      • amycas

         Another thing is that after being in jail (in America at least) sex offenders are required to undergo counseling and treatment. In the states that have required counseling, the recidivism rate for sex offenders is much lower than the rate for other types of offenders.

  • jdm8

    Was this law aimed specifically at the clergy, or are the clergy making it about themselves?

  • anon no 3

    The OP seem to me a bit superficial. From what I read a priest would
    have to report a number of crimes reported to him in confession, no
    only child molestation. With that law you would significantly limit
    the religious practice of confession. One can argue in favor or
    against it but one should be aware the issue has not only the
    church-state-separation but also the general right-to-silence
    context.

  • newavocation

    But, but, what’s a faithful cath’alolic’ to do? The pope has the ear of God. 

  • http://www.agnostic-library.com/ma/ PsiCop

    This is just further evidence … as though anyone needed any more … that the Church is still irrationally fighting age-old controversies as though they were alive and kicking.

    In the case of clergy not wanting to be under a mandate to report, the issue is that of ecclesiastical jurisdiction. The Church would love to roll the clock back to the Middle Ages, when in many instances, clergy were outside secular jurisdiction and only subject to ecclesiastical courts. Most countries no longer grant ecclesiastical jurisdiction, and haven’t for a very long time, but it seems the Church and its minions have yet to figure out that this particular fight is over.

    In the case of the original scandal, which centered around the Church’s unwillingness to remove from the ministry clergy guilty of abuse, they did so because of the Donatist controversy. You see, to admit that a priest became unfit for ministry, would appear to agree with the Donatist position (which, originally in the early 4th century, had been that clergy who’d renounced Christianity during the Diocletian persecution could no longer perform the sacraments). The Church is unwilling to establish any precedent that might seem to agree with the Donatist heresy. That the Donatist heresy has been dead and buried for centuries, doesn’t make any difference; the Church still works against it as though it were current.

    People often say the R.C. Church is a throwback institution. In many ways, it truly is. The Apostle’s Creed, which is incorporated into the Mass, was originally composed as a measure to derail the christological heresies, which started in the late 2nd century, and were ostensibly resolved by the Council of Chalcedon in 451. The reason Catholics intone it weekly, today, is because the Church fears the Arian, Nestorian, Monphysite, etc. heresies might someday rear their heads once more, even though they, too, have been dead for centuries.

    I can’t think of any better example of “dysfunctional thinking” than that, can you?

  • Ana_v

    The seal of Confession is inviolable without exception.

    It is true that the priests oppose this law. However, that the law pertains to incidents of sexual child abuse is incidental to why the priests oppose it. If the law mandated the disclosure of ANY crimes (e.g muder, drug trafficking, arson, theft, fraud, etc) revealed in the confessional, priests would refuse to comply with it.

    From the Code of Canon Law -

    Can. 983 §1 The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely
    forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in
    any manner and for any reason.

    ( For those unfamiliar with the terminology: the “confessor” is the one hearing the confession, i.e. a priest or bishop. The “penitent” is the one making a confession, i.e. any baptized Catholic who has attained the age of reason).

    No matter the nature of the sin confessed, and no matter the nature of the threat(s) imposed upon confessors (even if death/torture) if they don’t report the sins they’ve heard during confession to civil authorities, a confessor may NOT reveal the sins of the penitents.

    The penalty of violating the seal of confession is latae sententiae excommunication (“automatic excommunication” ) — this type of excommunication is incurred by the commission of the act in-and-of-itself, with no need for a pronouncement of excommunication on the part of an ecclesial authority (the latter is called “formal excommunication”) — and only the pope can lift that penalty off of the offending confessors.

    • Coyotenose

       And there’s the problem. These priests and the breed of Catholic that is on their side is more concerned with their own standing than with taking a basic moral position of protecting children. It’s all about THEM.

      Gosh, I wonder what their God would think of their abetting child molestors in order to protect themselves from the Church?

      • Ana_v

        Hi Coyotenose –

        How can respecting the seal be “all about them” when the he purpose of the seal is for the penitents? The fact that confessors must give up their lives before handing over the penitents is quite the opposite of selfishness.

        Also, the priests most certainly can and most likely would urge a confessed child sex offender in the confessional to turn him/herself in to civil authorities, as that would manifest interior contrition. It is the penitent, afterall, who is both the witness and doer of his/her own crime.

    • Renshia

       Oh that excuses everything. Yeah, screw the children, Wouldn’t want to break canon law.

      • http://dogmabytes.com/ C Peterson

        It is entirely rational for Canon law to prevail over stopping any kind of misery or abuse. Indeed, it is one of the most rational things you can find in religion. We have a church that operates under the belief that what happens on Earth is transient and unimportant compared with the salvation of the eternal soul. While a priest might feel very bad for any child he knows is being abused (and I’m sure most do), if he is true to the teachings of the church, he understands that observing Canon law is instrumental to saving souls. To allow temporal suffering in exchange for eternal life makes perfectly good sense.

        This is a perfect example of how theism and religious beliefs lead to what most people would consider fundamentally immoral behavior patterns.

        • Renshia

           Yes it is, and that is no excuse at all.

          It takes religion to make good people do horrible things. This is why the for humanity to survive itself we must work to eradicate religion like we are trying to control a disease.

      • Ana_v

        Hi Renshia –

        The purpose of my post was simply to contextualize this news story. Reason being that (as far as my internet observation is concerned) many are — whether wittingly or not — interpreting the story exclusively in terms of pedophilia and the sex abuse scandal.

        Another way to phrase my original point is this: had there not been a sex abuse scandal, these priests would still oppose the law of mandatory disclosure of crimes confessed in the Sacrament of Reconciliation, because the seal is a matter of principle not of particulars.

        Also, you are aware that penitents have the option of anonymous confession? They are no required  whatsoever (but may do so if they wish) to make their confession face-to-face with the priest. An anonymous confession would make no valuable contribution to this Irish law (and it’s perfectly reasonable to suspect that child sex offenders would prefer to make an anonyous confession). Not only that, penitents are not required to go to a priest of their parish or to a priest that they’ve gone to before in the past. They can go if they go to a priest they’ve never met before in their lives.  

        Furthermore, for those unfamiliar with confession — the priest only asks details to the extent that it will clarify what exactly is/are the sin(s). This may involve inquiring as to the person’s state of knowledge/awareness at the time of the commission or omission of the act, the person’s intent, and the person’s freedom of consent or lack thereof, because penitents can be vague.
        (E.g. ” I drove irresponsibly.” Translation (after the priests probes for necessary clarification): “I drove while drunk”. )

        Even setting aside the theological problems with this law, given how confession works in practice, I don’t see how this law is doing anything except mandating what is futile and encouraging hearsay.

      • Ana_v

        Hi
        Renshia –

        *My apologies if this post shows up as a duplicate. My first reply to you apparently
        disappeared so I am re-typing it.

        – 1)The reason for my original comment on this thread was to contextualize the
        news story since (as far as my internet observation is concerned) it is
        commonly, and whether wittingly or not, being interpreted exclusively in terms
        of pedophilia and the clerical sexual abuse scandal.

        Another way to state my original point is this: had the clerical sexual abuse
        scandal never occurred in the Catholic Church, priests would still refuse to
        comply with a law mandating that they report the committed crimes that are
        disclosed to them in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is because preserving
        the seal of the sacrament is a matter of principle, not of particulars.

        2) Are you aware of anonymous confession? While penitents may make their
        confession face-to-face with their confessors if they wish (I do), it is not
        required of them to expose their identities, as they are to be given the option of
        making an anonoymous confession
        (see

        Can. 964 ) . And it is perfectly reasonable to suspect that
        a past child sex offender who is seeking the sacrament, will choose to make an
        anonymous confession.

        Tying this back to the is Irish bill — even setting aside the theological
        problems with breaking the seal of confession, there are still practical
        problems. The “passing on” of an anonymous confession would not be a
        valuable contribution to civil authorities.

        3) For confession, penitents can go to any priest that is in communion with Rome that they wish to go
        to. It does not have to be a priest from the parish to which they belong; it
        does not have to be a priest whom they’ve gone to confession for in the past.
        They can go to a priest they’ve never met before in their lives.

        ( Just as a personal example: This past year –since last April that is –I’ve
        gone to 9 priests for confession (multiple times with respect to most of them).
        Not because I physically had to go to 9 different ones. I could have, if I
        wanted to, gone to the same one each time. On one of the occassions in which I
        went to confession, my confessor was a visiting priest from Rome. I had never met him before. He did not
        know me. Furthermore, that was one of two occassions total thus far, in which I
        made an anonymous confession.)

        Likewise, tying this back to the legislation discussed in the OP and its
        practical problems, a crime confessed to a priest may come from a person
        entirely unfamiliar to him. And it’s not unlikely that a person guilty of a
        sexual abuse crime would rather, due to feeling shame, seek out a priest whom
        he/she has no prior connection with.

        4) In the confessional, priests only ask for details to the extent that it is
        necessary in order to determine what exactly the sin(s) is/are and the
        penitent’s degree of culpability. This may involve inquiring as to the
        penitent’s state of moral knowledge/awareness and state of freedom (freedom to
        choose) at the time of the commission or omission of the act. The asking of
        details is for when the penitent is being vague or unclear, e.g. ” I drove
        irresponsibly”. Translation (after priest probes for necessary
        clarification): “I drove while drunk”.

        5) Confessors hear countless confessions, and when the sacrament is offered
        during the established daily or weekly time frame that is open to Catholics in
        general (as opposed to a confession by appointment, hospital visit, emergency
        etc.), that means they are hearing one person *right after* another and
        another.

      • Ana_v

        Hi
        Renshia –

        *My apologies if this post is a duplicate. My first reply to you apparently disappeared so I am re-typing it.

        – 1)The reason for my original comment on this thread was to contextualize the news story since (as far as my internet observation is concerned) it is commonly, and whether wittingly or not, being nterpreted exclusively in terms of pedophilia and the clerical sexual abuse scandal.

        Another way to state my original point is this: had the clerical sexual abuse scandal never occurred in the Catholic Church, priests would still refuse to comply with a law mandating that they report the committed crimes that are disclosed to them in the Sacrament of Reconciliation. This is because preserving the seal of the sacrament is a matter of principle, not of particulars.

        2) Are you aware of anonymous confession? While penitents may make their confession face-to-face with their confessors if they wish (I do), it is not required of them to expose their identities. They must be given the option of making an anonymous confession. And it is perfectly reasonable to suspect that a past child sex offender who is seeking the sacrament, will choose to make an anonymous confession.

        Tying this back to the is Irish bill — even setting aside the theological problems with breaking the seal of confession, there are still practical problems. The “passing on” of an anonymous confession would not be a valuable contribution to civil authorities.

        (Cont ..)

        • Ana_v

          (Cont…)

          3) For confession, penitents can go to any priest that is in communion with Rome that they wish to go to. It does not have to be a priest from the parish to which they belong; it does not have to be a priest whom they’ve gone to confession for in the past. They can go to a priest they’ve never met before in their lives.

          ( Just as a personal example: This past year –since last April that is –I’ve gone to 9 priests for confession (multiple times with respect to most of them). Not because I physically had to go to 9 different ones. I could have, if I wanted to, gone to the same one each time. On one of the occasions in which I went to confession, my confessor was a visiting priest from Rome. I had never met him before. He did not know me. Furthermore, that was one of two occasions total thus far, in which I made an anonymous confession.)

          Likewise, tying this back to the legislation discussed in the OP and its practical problems, a crime confessed to a priest may come from a person entirely unfamiliar to him. And it’s not unlikely that a person guilty of a sexual abuse crime would rather, due to feeling shame, seek out a priest whom he/she has no prior connection with.

          4) In the confessional, priests only ask for details to the extent that it is necessary in order to determine what exactly the sin(s) is/are and the penitent’s degree of culpability. This may involve inquiring as to the penitent’s state of moral knowledge/awareness and state of freedom (freedom to choose) at the time of the commission or omission of the act. The asking of details is for then the penitent is being vague or unclear, e.g. ” I drove irresponsibly”. Translation (after priest probes for necessary clarification): “I drove while drunk”.

          5) Confessors hear countless confessions, and when the sacrament is offered
          during the established daily or weekly time frame that is open to Catholics in general (as opposed to a confession by appointment, hospital visit, emergency etc.), that means they are hearing one person *right after* another and another.

          • Renshia

             Greetings Ana,
            I do understand the point you are making. I was an alter boy and I am fairly aware of the most common Catholic doctrine and laws. I served as an alter boy for about 7 years. I also lived right next door to the parish. I can honestly say the priest, Father Major held a very important roll in my life. To make it short, his place was a sanctuary for me, in the mist of a home life that was filled with anger, violence and drunken stupidity. If I was to used my experience, as a gage for the church, I would not believe any of the stories about the atrocities that have come out it.  Simply because if it had not been for the priest next door, I believe I would probably be dead.

            So I am probably one of the few here that can really understand that fine line that the priests must walk between servant of the church and servant of the community.

            I understand that there are times and places where there is a need for silence and that not every word uttered in a confessional can be brought before local authorities. I don’t think this law is intended for that. I think the church is trying to emphasize this point to try and avoid the areas that fall outside of the confessional. For instance, if the person is anonymous, then there is obviously not enough info to go to the police with.  I do not think this law will bring the police knocking after the confessions are done, to see what the latest scapes of info are, that have come out of each session.

            But let me tell you from the heart of a person that was an 8 year old boy, who had black and blue marks from the top of his neck down to his calves. For those that did know of the abuses that occurred, because I know my old man was not sharing his activities in a confessional.  It would have been nice for someone to have said something. There are many instances that will and do fall outside the  Sacrament of Reconciliation. Whether it is a fellow priest sexually abusing someone or a member of the congregation known for his violent outrages.
            It is these circumstances that will hopefully be avoided in the future and that those who choose to be silent will be held accountable.

            It is to late for me, the damage has already been done. But for those who are suffering now, maybe a few can be rescued.

            So let’s not split hairs, and only look at the worst possible scenarios. lets take a look at the whole.

            • Ana_v

              Thanks for your reply Renshia. I really hope that, in regards to him/ those who did you harm in your childhood, he/they will eventually if they still haven’t, acknowledge their wrongs (some people are in denial) and make efforts to amend their lives, in a way that is consistent with sincere remorse and that is for the good of others. It takes humility and an act of the will to do that and sometimes a person’s greatest obstacle is oneself.

              You wrote “There are many instances that will and do fall outside the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Whether it is a fellow priest sexually abusing someone or a member of the congregation known for his violent outrages.” 

              True, and a priest who learns about such abuse outside of the context of the of confession — even if it is during spiritural direction/counseling, which is not protected by the seal – certainly can disclose the abuse to the proper authorities.

              • Renshia

                well, no, he never did, and he is dead now. The worst thing is I was asked by my aunt to contribute to the payment to the church to get him out of purgatory. Like 500.00 would be enough. (She will never ask that again.)

                Anyways, don’t give it a second thought. I have dealt with it and other than a little over protective of kids, I am over it.

                I learned it is our experiences and how we choose to interpret them that makes us who we are. Although I would not wish what I went through on anyone, it is those things that shaped who I became. And I like who I am, so really, would I be the same me if I had not had those challenges? Probably not.

                I guess I get a little sensitive over this kind of thing. But, it wasn’t only the church, more than anything it was the time and the place. It was just the normal thing for a person to turn a blind eye. This is why this whole debate surprises me. I find it hard to believe anyone, for any reason, could advocate silence. But, then again, it surprises me that people still identify themselves as christians and  catholics too.
                I guess I spend a lot of time being surprised. LOL

  • Renshia

    Every church out there.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Margaret-Whitestone/100001682409207 Margaret Whitestone

    Asking priests to do the same thing teachers, doctors and others have been doing for years is somehow a “war on Catholics”.  These supposedly moral people think they’re being persecuted because they’re  being asked to report child molesters.   Ugh. 

  • Nikkibaby300

    wow

  • kenneth

    The main thrust of the problem really isn’t what transpires in the confessional. I’m not as familiar with the particulars of the scandal in Ireland, but here in the states, few, if any, of these crimes were covered up because they came to light in confession. Most were cases where many victims over many years made accusations which the priests own superiors themselves considered credible. Many of these priests admitted their actions, and so the bottleneck was not the seal of confession. It was a matter of written policy AND a culture of cover-up. Even to this day, many years after dioceses adopted policies mandating reporting to law enforcement, bishops look for and find a loophole to not do it. This will not change until all priests and bishops are made mandatory reporters under the law, with or without an exception for confession. Then, bishops who are caught flouting the law must be criminally charged and a few of them must be seen to spend many, many years in prison as a result. In addition, the offending diocese should be subject to RICO prosecution and massive monetary damages and civil forfeiture of millions of dollars in assets, in addition to the damages victims attorneys seek. There should also be no statute of limitations for these crimes. 

  • Sue Blue

    Methinks Bill Donohue doth protest too much…maybe he’s got a secret or two?  Oh, and that blather about the sacred “seal of the confessional”  is the most fly-blown old piece of horseshit there is.  It’s just another example of religious privilege.  If a priest withholds information about a crime – especially a crime against children – he should be arrested as an accessory to that crime.  

  • Jbgood314

    Blow up a few Catholic churches, then go to confession and tell a Priest what you did and see if they keep it between you and God.

  • Hibernia86

    Maybe it is because I was raised Catholic (though I’m an Atheist now), but I kind of understand about how confession should stay private. It is kind of similar to how many would argue that patients should be able to have private conversations with their psychiatrists even if they admit breaking the law. If they don’t have that, then they will keep quiet and the psychiatrist might not be able to help talk them out of it.  

  • A is for Atheist

    At the tender age of 9, with no knowledge of the Christian “morality” or of the illegality of child rape (lets stop calling it abuse) and molestation, I found photographs of my older sister, then 13 or 14, engaged in sexual activities with a family friend. I found these photos at his house while playing with his son. Upon finding them we both knew, unquestionably, that what we were seeing was wrong. After a short discussion as to who we should take them to we chose the police. Needless to say he was arrested and spent many years in jail. I find it odd then, that, as a homosexual atheist, these “moral” men should dare question my morality, even so far as to call me morally evil.

  • http://twitter.com/philoTruth steve sexauer

    People have lost sight of morality. Given that Priests are told to protect the identities of child molesters and cover up their crimes, its unethical to be a priest or a member of the church, period. End of story. There is no reason to wait until such time that someone confesses and then claim its unethical to reveal their identity because you’ve taken vows. It’s already unethical to agree to cover up such acts. Keeping true to his vows has nothing to do with ethics except an additional reason to cite him as unethical for taking the vows

    • Sindigo

      I agree with you so much it hurts. How can anyone continue to be a Catholic at this point? Imagine if you belonged to an organisation that has frequent contact with Children, let’s say it’s an international Martial Arts club. There are times when the instructors have contact with children with no other adults around, sometimes even having private, one on one tuition with kids who need extra practice. 

      Then one, not several or many but one instructor is found to be touching the kids in his charge. The Heads of this organisation decide to move this instructor to a different city so he escapes prosecution for his crimes. Would you still send your kids there? Or would you find a different school?

      If you’re still a Catholic at this point then you need your f*ckin’ head read. No-one, least of all your benevolent god could blame you for leaving the Catholic church and worshipping elsewhere. Remaining a member of the Catholic congregation is tacit approval of this behaviour if you ask me.

      Why do we never hear from “Catholics against Paedos”? Surely a portion of Catholics  are against kiddy-fiddling. Where are their voices?

  • T-Rex

    So the war against pedophiles is really a war against Catholocism. Who knew? Fucktards.

  • Sindigo


    Is there any other organization that claims to care about children while actively harming them in the process?”
    Any Chiropractic association.

  • Ana_v

    Hi Coyotenose –

    How can respecting the seal  be “all about them” when the he purpose of the seal is for the penitents? The fact that confessors must give up their lives before handing over the penitents is quite the opposite of selfishness.  

    Also, the priests most certainly can and most likely would urge a confessed child sex offender to turn him/herself in to civil authorities, as that would manifest interior contrition. It is the penitent, afterall, who is both the witness and doer of his/her own crime.   

  • http://godlessandsouthern.wordpress.com/ MattyP

    Lawyers and Psychologists have to report the illegal activity of their clients. Priests should be no different. Period.

    This whole double standard is ridiculous, and yes, I know I am preaching to the choir here.

  • Satinka Harris

    I agree it is a shameful situation in the Catholic church. The Catholics are not alone in this crime. I know from being an ex-member of the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion that their legal department pays off victims with member donations. For the most part, they have kept themselves out of the sex scandal news—at least up till now. But I personally know of several instances of sex abuse hidden under the rugs of the Jehovah’s Witnesses Watch Tower Society. Thanks to the sheer volume of complaints made against them, light is now being shone on the corruption in the Jehovah’s Witness religion. Read more from victims of the Jehovah’s Witnesses religion at  http://www.silentlambs.org/sllist.htm

  • http://www.facebook.com/robert.tobin Robert Tobin

    The sooner the EVIL ROTTEN ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCH is made to pay for it’s crimes and then banned from the World the better.

  • Jett Perrobone

    What a priest should say, if someone comes to him confessing a child sex crime, is “God forgives you, you will go to heaven, but we don’t forgive you, you will go to jail.”  That’s what I think, anyhow.

  • Findlocalgoldbuyers

    I think this type of political decisions should not be taken. If this type of political decisions are taken it will definitely effected to the society. I oppose this type things. Thanks for the post. 

  • The Other Weirdo

    Is this even about the confessional, or is it more properly about priests worried that they would be forced to report fellow priests for molesting children? They can’t castrate children anymore, so they’re setting for this.

  • http://northierthanthou.com/ nothierthanthou

    I think the Catholic church lacks the credibility necessary to handle this internally. Their complete and utter failure on this issue is more than enough reason to warrant legal intervention.

  • http://twitter.com/69wyocowboy Silas Richardson

    that is bullshit…religion needs to be held accountable for their behavior. religion is out of control…since they are going to be defiant by this law, it should pass and throw all their ass’s in jail…

  • Notnow

    Hemant, I feel sorry for your juvenile “reporting”. You make zero sense. Big surprise. 


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