Ireland: Law proposed to force priests to break the Seal of Confession

Biretta tips to Fr. Blake and to Sancte Pater who lead me to this story at The Irish Catholic and elsewhere.

Government proposal to break the seal of confession is without precedent
Thu, 14/07/2011 – 15:34

The Taoiseach, the Minister for Justice and the Minister for Children are all indicating that a proposed new law will require priests to break the seal of confession if someone confesses to them the crime of paedophilia.
This would make us the one and only country in the Western world to have such a law. Even Revolutionary France in the days of its worst violence against the Church did not pass a law requiring the breaking of the seal of confession.
The justification for the law is that the crime of paedophilia is so heinous that no one who hears about it, under whatever circumstances, can be allowed to keep it to themselves.
But our Government is clearing missing something that every other Government can see, which is that at a minimum such a law is very unlikely to lead to a single conviction and at a maximum will be counter-productive and will make society less safe, rather than more safe.
It could equally be argued that a priest who hears a confession of murder must report it to the police. But if the murderer knew that priests were under such a legal requirement, the murderer would not make such a confession unless he was going to the police anyway.
On the other hand, a murderer who wishes to confess a crime to a priest, under the absolute seal of the confessional, is on the road to repentance and attending confession gives a priest the chance to encourage the murderer to turn himself over to the authorities or at the very least to cease his criminal activities.
The logic is the same with child abusers. No child abuser will go to a priest in confession knowing the priest is required to inform the police. But cutting off the avenue of confession to a child abuser makes it less likely that he will talk to someone who can persuade him to take the next step.
Various relationships in society are considered privileged and confidential. One is between a person and his or her confessor. Another is between a doctor and patient, and another is between a lawyer and client.
In creating a legal requirement that priests break the seal of confession under certain circumstances, the Irish State is going down a road very few other states in history have gone down. We need to seriously reconsider this extremely unwise and unprecedented proposal.
It says a lot about the present mood here that it can even be entertained.

And that mood is: Attack the Catholic Church, threaten the Catholic Church, intimidate the Catholic Church.

When our Catholic identity is eroded, this is what happens.  As the night follows the day, threats of this kind will be made so as to silence the Church, whose duty it is to teach on many moral issues.  You know the issues I am talking about.  I suspect that this has more to do with hatred of the Church’s teaching office than it does with outrage over child abuse.

Sadly, the climate of anti-Catholicism and oppression is in large part fueled from within the Church herself.

Think about it.  A law proposed to force priests to break the Seal… in Ireland.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Clerical Sexual Abuse, Our Catholic Identity, Slubberdegullions, TEOTWAWKI, The future and our choices, The Last Acceptable Prejudice and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    Well father and company, I blame the higher clergy in this case in Ireland, because with the abusive clergy, especially as recent as 2009 involving cover-ups, you could say the institutional Church has brought it upon themselves. If way back when seminaries did their jobs and kicked out homosexuals, and individual dioceses didn’t play cover up, like this one did so late in the game, the secular governments wouldn’t be forced upon to enact these laws. As in the comic book Spiderman “With great power, comes great responsibility”.

  2. RobertK says:

    Looks like Ireland is turning into a China. Atheist and telling the Catholic Church what to do.

  3. TNCath says:

    As awful as this is, the priests of Ireland may be called upon to live out one of their time-honored hymns: “Faith of Our Fathers.”

    Faith of our fathers, living still
    In spite of dungeon, fire and sword,
    O how our hearts beat high with joy
    Whene’er we hear that glorious word!
    Faith of our fathers! holy faith!
    We will be true to thee till death!

    Our fathers, chained in prisons dark,
    Were still in heart and conscience free;
    And blest would be their children’s fate,
    If they, like them should die for thee:
    Faith of our fathers! holy faith!
    We will be true to thee till death!

    It just might take something this drastic…

  4. Ezra says:

    Sadly, the climate of anti-Catholicism and oppression is in large part fueled from within the Church herself.

    Yep. Remember the Catholics of the British Isles in your prayers.

  5. irishgirl says:

    Oh, this is awful! I agree with what Young Canadian RC Male says about what the higher clergy in Ireland DIDN’T do!
    Our Lady of Knock, come to the aid of Ireland!
    St. Patrick, shake your mighty shellalagh and come down to stop this odious law from taking effect!

  6. RobertK says:

    Ezra the Archbishop of Boston had his chance and failed. He allowed a certain Mass to take place and considers the parish that hosted it a standard of sorts. The enemy is within the Church. Hopefully the Coptic Anchorites in the Deserts of Egypt as well as the Monks such as those on Athos, and Clear Creak are joining us in our prayers.

  7. I agree of course that people within the Church by their actions and inaction have opened up for an anti-Catholic climate and measures of repression. Sins have consequences. However, I cannot understand or agree that the statement that without these “the secular governments wouldn’t be forced upon to enact these laws”. I can’t understand it because the secular governments are in no way forced upon to enact laws against the Sacrament of Penance. I mean, in the way of pressure, yes, many want to pressurise governments to legislate against the Faith and these would have less opportunity to do so (and some might not have wanted to do so) had it not been for the tragic cases of sexual abuse and their mishandling. However, to say they are ‘forced upon’ is too much. Pressure is not the same as being forced. If the government do this, they will enact a measure that will cause great harm both in the natural and supernatural realm unless the Church makes it clear enough to penitents that they will not abide by the secular law in this case as it is manifestly unjust. And then it will still cause harm in the measures that may be taken to deal with this.

    Measures that would force priests to reveal such crimes at least if there was a danger that they would be committed also in the future were discussed also in Norway last year. It would be difficult, though, because another paragraph in Norwegian law states that the duty to reveal information would be vitiated if there is danger of grave harm to the individual in doing so. One may obviously very reasonably argue that excommunication constitutes grave harm.

    I am writing from memory in all this, but my memory of the bishop of Oslo’s reaction to this was that it was something along the lines of telling the Minister for Justice that if he wanted to outlaw the sacrament of penance, he would just have to inform the bishop to that effect; with the to me clear undertext, and ‘we’ll take it from there’.

  8. Lest someone misunderstand my last paragraph, I mean of course that the bishop clearly indicated that such measures would become a matter of an attack on the Faith and freedom of religion.

  9. KAS says:

    The seal of confession should NEVER be broken.

  10. Clinton says:

    How would the state prove that a priest heard such a confession but did not report it?
    How could a priest be expected to identify an anonymous penitent so as to report that person?
    How could the courts verify that any confession was ever made, let alone contained
    an admission of illegal acts?

    There is a multitude of reasons why this proposed legislation, besides being anti-Catholic,
    is simply unworkable and inconsistent with a civilized justice system. That it is being seriously
    proposed tells us that the government of Ireland is not interested so much in the integrity of
    its legal system as it is in cheap moral posturing for the Irish press at the expense of the Church.

  11. Of course, the threatened measures in Norway would only have covered information about future crimes, and involved a great deal of hysteria and misinformation about what the Sacrament of Confession involves. However, seeing as such information still might come up in confession (the confession of children who, though not guilty of the abuse against them, still might bring the matter up in the safety of complete confidence offered by the sacrament as far as I understand. A measure that would require the divulging of information about past crimes if of course a lot more wideranging and a more direct attack on the sacrament. Both though require the same unflinching and firm response as a threat against the sacrament, even one aimed at a situation that would be extremely rare and not what the sacrament is properly meant for.

    At the time, an alleged earlier statement of the bishop of Oslo (which I hope is true but which I read in the online media and therefore will not assumet the veracity of!) was quoted in the media that he would rather go to prison than divulge information revealed in confession. This has of course to be the attitude of any priest and any faithful lay Catholic needs to be willing to fight for them.

  12. Augustin57 says:

    As I’ve said before, Catholics should prepare for a period of persecution, especially priests and bishops. Whenever we stop teaching the fullness of the faith, and living it, the world descends into darkness. The greatest threat to our national security and our way of life is immorality. And when morality isn’t taught fearlessly, things go down the tubes very quickly.

    I predict we will be persecuted like the Jews in Nazi Germany, only on a much grander scale. I think many will have the opportunity to become martyrs for the faith.

  13. Clinton: yup, cheap moral posturing for the press seems to be in vogue in politics these days.

  14. Young Canadian RC Male says: If way back when seminaries did their jobs and kicked out homosexuals, and individual dioceses didn’t play cover up, like this one did so late in the game, the secular governments wouldn’t be forced upon to enact these laws.

    No. There is never any justification for enacting evil, illegitimate legislation, and therefore no legitimate claim that secular governments are “forced” into doing so. This law is a frontal assault on the Church, and priests would be bound to disobey it.

    When we are forced to choose between saving our hides and saving our souls, may we choose the latter.

  15. Father S. says:

    Of course, the law cannot force priests to reveal anything. The law is certainly heinous, but the notion that the seal can be forcibly broken is ludicrous. Any priest who would violate the law of God for the law of man is a fool. The long term effect may be the arrest of priests and even their imprisonment, but no earthly law can compel a priest to divulge–directly or indirectly–what is heard in Confession. Perhaps Irish Catholics ought to begin praying to St. John Nepomucene for his intercession for confessors and the integrity of the seal!

  16. Legisperitus says:

    Such a law would be no law at all.

  17. I have been googling a bit to refresh my memories from last year’s controversy in Norway, and it seems that the bishop of Oslo was indeed very clear, as was indeed my memory, that the seal of the sacrament could not be broken. He repeated that he was willing to go to prison rather than reveal information divulged in the sacrament of penance. He also clearly stated that priests would have a duty to civil disobedience in the matter if the law were to require a breaking of the absolute duty to observe the seal of the sacrament of penance, as Catholics in China, Vietnam, the Third Reich and the Soviet Union had been obliged to civil disobedience. He also clearly stated that if the Norwegian state did this, they would be taking over a practice of totalitarian states. I hope the Irish bishops will be as clear in their defence of the sacramental seal.

    Sadly, I remember at the time that certain lay Catholics were not equally clear and that there was also some confusion abounding in regard to what could be required as penance from the penitent.

  18. digdigby says:

    You don’t have to go all the way to Ireland, how about ….Alabama?:

    Russ Ford Catholic evangelist in prison for decades has 60 Godsons and has made over 100 converts in an Alabama hellhole of a prison, mostly black and ‘evangelical’. His recidivism rate is about 1% vs. 60% return to prison for ‘born again converts’.

    The Alabama prison guards routinely interrupt the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass to count prisoners. Prisoners are accustomed to random counts, but when the guards realized that the Consecration is the most important part of the Mass they began to walk in right at that time and loudly order the priest to stop while they took a count. Russ points out that, even if they felt they had to take a count right then, they could easily do it without interrupting the Mass. Men at Mass are already in neat rows, all sitting or all standing or all kneeling.

    The guards even do “counts” during the Sacrament of Penance. At Russ’s prison the Confessional is a room with all glass walls. The guards can easily see the priest and penitent at all times, and can easily see that no one else is in the tiny room. But they would often walk in anyway during the Confession and stop everything while they counted.

    On one occasion, as the priest was processing out after Mass, a guard hit him hard, then took him away. There were about 40 prisoners at the Mass. When they saw their beloved priest hit and taken away they streamed out to kill the guard. Russ instantly moved between the men and the guard and pleaded with them to stop, reminding them that Jesus’ first words after being crucified were, Lk 23:34 “Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do.” There were many cries of “Out of the way, Russ. That man will never hit another priest.” Russ finally prevailed, and the shaken guard took the priest away. All of them were frightened, not knowing whether the guard would kill the priest. As it turned out the priest was released without additional assault.

    In October 1995, Russ was all set to be paroled. Anyone who knows him realizes that during the years since his baptism he has been a bulwark of moral courage. Russ’s priest stated at the parole hearing that he has been living a deeply Catholic life and that anyone would be perfectly safe in his presence. A business owner stated that she was prepared to employ him as a business manager. The hearing went as if on rails until the very end. A woman on the parole board, a radical feminist who hated Catholics, asked the priest whether Russ had mentioned in Confession any other crimes that the board should be aware of. The priest explained the Seal of the Confessional and said that he could not discuss Russ’s confessions in any way. The radical feminist had evidently planned this ahead of time, because she answered that Russ could release the priest to discuss his confessions. The startled priest replied that no power on earth could make him discuss Russ’s confessions. In that case, the feminist replied, there would be no parole.

    When Russ heard about this, he was more concerned for the Sacrament of Penance than for his own release. He sued the State of Alabama, which virtually ensured that he would not get a parole any time soon. His concern was that the Sacrament would become an instrument of law enforcement investigations. He told me that he would rather die in prison than gain his freedom by weakening the legal protections against forcing priests to reveal sacramental confessions. The lawsuit seems to have petered out with indeterminate results, and Russ is still in prison.

  19. The seal of confession should never be broken.

    In a way, we should all prepare for more frontal attacks in the coming years. They have, of course, been going on in many countries since the dawn of Christianity and continue to this day in places like Vietnam, China, Saudi Arabia, and in many other places.

    But, to find such reckless attacks on religious liberty in the West should be a clear sign to us that the barbarians are within our own walls.

  20. APX says:

    Such a law would be useless to get a conviction in court anyway. Given that confession is usually anonymous all the priest could say is that someone confessed such a crime. He couldn’t give a description, name or anything.

    It’s ridiculous that anyone would try to pass a law like this. It makes me wonder if the accused’s lawyers are under the same obligation when their client admits to committing such a crime. I highly doubt it.

  21. PostCatholic says:

    In order to claim clergy-penitent privilege,
    1. the communication must be made to ordained clergy member,
    2. who is acting in a professional capacity as a spiritual advisor,
    3. in confidence.

    Obviously that covers a Catholic priest hearing a confession, and a lot of other situations a Catholic priest might ordinarily find himself, including phone calls and letters and counselling sessions.

    At least in the USA. Most states also have mandatory duty-to-report statutes with regard to child protection and that conflicts with clergy-penitent privilege. Some states specifically exempt clergy from those laws. Some actually do not, which certainly has the potential to set up a conflict between the state’s right to protect its citizens and the absolute “seal of confession” that the Catholic church considers necessary.

  22. AnAmericanMother says:

    St. John Nepomucene, pray for us!

  23. OTOH, there is encouragement here. As imperfect of Church members that we are, as crazy and foolish as we have been, the Devil still fears us. Even a lukewarm modern Catholic Church of low Mass attendance, he cannot bear.

  24. Rosevean says:

    If priests are required to report one type of crime, it’s disingenuous to suggest that such legislation would stop there. They would be required to report every crime they heard, including the confession of a brother priest that he had not reported a crime… and where does the priest stand with someone who confesses the desire to commit a crime? Does that have to be reported too?

    The clocks struck thirteen…

  25. Paul says:

    God, guard your Church and the Seal. If it were not for the knowledge that no matter what, my confession would remain secret from men, I would have never had the courage to go the first time, when I converted.

  26. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    Moore O.P. Look I agree that these laws shouldn’t exist in the first place. But I stated what I did because simply, in this diocese the clergy is bringing it upon themselves. They failed morally and legally to act in their capacities as priests and now they are being punished for it by secular authorities. If they were responsible perhaps the government wouldn’t have seen it fit to issue this law.
    An analogy would be a high school bully in one’s school who consistently assaults kids. The school administration chooses to lightly punish the bully or do nothing at all. Eventually, that bully seeing the freedom he has and the lack of punishment for his crimes, abuses the environment he is in and beats a kid to the point of putting the kid in a coma or committing 2nd degree murder. At this point, police have to be brought in to deal with the situation because the school failed to prevent a crime, and the crime is of an epic proportion that it cannot be ignored, not to mention an innocent party has been affected with the loss of their child. Also in this scenario the administration would likely be fired for failing to exercise their moral and legal responsibility to ensure the school’s code of conduct is upheld, that every child is promised a safe environment to obtain that level of education being offered.
    I finish this post by reiterating what Augustin57 says: “Whenever we stop teaching the fullness of the faith, and living it, the world descends into darkness.”

  27. Blayne says:

    This ia very tragic example of the hierarchy being responsible for the anti-clericalism in a country. Reading the Dublin report, and now the one from Cloyne, this reaction is based upon the absurdity with which the Irish church has VERY sadly handled itself. Being of Irish ancestry, I have cried for these children(now adults), who won’t go to Mass over this. Those who hear about this not in the Church and who are put off by the abuse. These men lead the little ones astray and now the millstones ’round their necks will drag them down and maybe all the good clergy with them. St. Patrick, pray for Ireland.

  28. shane says:

    This will make it very easy for people with grudges to falsly accuse priests of not reporting abuse. The priests will not be able to defend themselves because of the seal.

  29. Prof. Basto says:

    This is a direct attack on the Church and in one of Her Sacraments.

    This requires rash, strong-worded, immediate response from the Holy See, even if it be in the form of a specific papal encyclical addressed to Ireland on the subject.

    Everyone who votes for this is guilty of a henious assault on the Catholic religion!

    Even the worst among the Catholics should be able to confess his sins and to obtain the sacramental pardon of God, and the Church has for centuries understood that in order for the Sacrament of Penance to be dispensed, in orther that people search for it, in order that they fell safe to confess their worst toughts, actions and omissions, and to obtain the remedy of mercy, secrecy is required.

  30. Theodore says:

    When the government turns it’s sights on you remember this, “Show me the man and I’ll find you the crime.” — Lavrentiy Beria, chief of the Soviet security and secret police under Stalin.

  31. Fr Levi says:

    I don’t think the Irish Government will enact the legislation. For a start I believe it would require a consititutional ammendment (I have a letter in today’s Irish Times pointing that out I don’t think the sound-bite posturing will last long enough for that. Even if they did go down that road, any such law would be unenforceable, as other posters here have noted.

    It is important to remember that there is a huge amount of hurt and anger in Ireland about this. There has been scandal after scandal invovling clerical sexual abuse. Everyone thought that proper child protection policies put in place & that these scandals were behind us. The Cloyne Report (which you can link to here although as it is over 400 pages long I imagine few will have time to read it) contains a litany of failure to follow established child protection guidelines.

    The attempt to drag the confessional into the child abuse scandal has nothing to do with rational thinking. It is born of anger and is an attempt to wound and punish. Right now the best thing that anyone can do is to pray for the situation in Ireland – for its people, its politicians, & its priests … and especially the victims of abuse & their continuing pain. Right now we need it.

  32. Please do us a favour and politely email our Taoiseach at and protest this unjust proposal. This is a serious development and has sinister implications for how the present Irish Government sees its relations with the Church. This could be used to persecute us as clergy. I won’t break the seal. I don’t think any priest in Ireland, liberal or conservative, would. Help us.

  33. Caro_c says:

    Help! Things are bad here in Ireland, and not a single word from our bishops. We need leadership. Please pray for the Church in Ireland. I have made a “Protect the Seal” logo, it is on my blog, please share it on facebook, on your blogs. We need help from outside, as I do not think we are capable of helping ourselves.

  34. AnAmericanMother says:

    Do you have a source for this?
    The reason I ask is that the likelihood of a ‘radical feminist’ being on the parole board in Alabama is slim to none. They’re all men and have been for awhile, anyhow. I could see some Jack Chick fire-and-brimstone unaffiliated Baptists being anti-Catholic (e.g. a certain type of prison guard), but to have ‘Cool Hand Luke’ guards and a radical feminist in the same story seems fairly unlikely to me.
    And I’m pretty sure we would have heard about a civil rights action in federal court if a prison guard actually struck a priest, all the jailhouse lawyers would have been busy alleging intimidation etc. (the priest need not file). And the parole board member asking a priest to break the Seal violates Ala. Code 12-21-166, which applies to “all legal and quasi-legal proceedings” – and the same Code section provides that the privilege is not waiveable by the other party.
    Just color me cynical, I suppose, but I’d like to see the parole board hearing transcript rather than second-hand hearsay which probably originates with the applicant.

  35. AnAmericanMother says:

    Where are the bishops? For that matter, where are the faithful Catholic MPs?
    If this is a serious effort to enact a law, and not just a back-bench bomb that is being given lip service, somebody with some authority had better speak up.

  36. digdigby says:

    AnAmericanMother says:
    15 July 2011 at 3:54 pm

    Do you have a source for this? –

    I’ve gone right to Russ’ ministry and asked for a direct response. Its probably a lot of crap which makes me a prize sucker…..yet again. My subjects henceforth are carpentry, cooking cheaply, classic film, aphorisms and Chekhov’s short stories. I hereby leave the fine points of my religion to the experts of which I am not one.

  37. Y2Y says:

    Time for another 1916.

  38. Kerry says:

    The most prominent Bishop in all of Ireland should publicly and loudly announce that they will go along with this law, and will also supply to the local tabloids the confessional secrets of all those in elected office, saying, “The people have a right to know the private lives of the elected”. (Sarcasm off.)

  39. PostCatholic says:

    “For that matter, where are the faithful Catholic MPs?”

    In Ireland, they’re “TDs” and do you really imagine there’s a politician anywhere in the west faithful to the Catholic Church? I’d love to meet that quixotic figure.

  40. AnAmericanMother says:

    You’re such a cynic. I know two very nice ones right here in town. One of them attends Latin Mass.

  41. AnAmericanMother says:

    I didn’t mean it that way! He may be a fine upstanding fellow for all I know, and I am ready to be corrected if that is the case. Others may have exaggerated his claims, the story may have grown in the telling, or it may really be true.
    I’ve hung around the judicial system for way too long, and I wish I had a dollar for everybody I’ve encountered who’s had a “jailhouse conversion”. It does make you way too suspicious.
    True story: an old country judge that I knew years ago, now gathered to his fathers, had a prisoner write him a long, very involved letter saying that he had seen the light, been converted, and wanted to have his sentence commuted so that he could preach the Gospel. Judge wrote him back, saying that he thought at least for the duration of his sentence he ought to emulate St. Paul and preach to the folks in prison and write letters. He got back a two word response that I won’t repeat here. Judge’s comment, “It looks like he done backslid!”

  42. WaywardSailor says:

    Oh, for an Alice Glenn in her prime to stand up in the Dail and dissect the proponent of this abomination with her logic and wit.

  43. RichR says:

    the Seal of Confession seems unassailable. If a priest simply says silent, he neither affirms nor denies anything. You can’t lock someone up for not speaking. You have no proof anything happened if nothing is said.

  44. RichardT says:

    RichR said “You can’t lock someone up for not speaking”.

    We did.

    “Butler v. Moore (1802) – a priest was imprisoned for contempt of court for refusing to answer whether John Butler, 12th Baron Dunboyne, professed the Catholic faith at the time of his death.”

    That was actually in Ireland, although at a time when Ireland was part of the UK.

    There probably isn’t a defence of the Seal in English law (although I don’t think it’s been tested in the last hundred years), but that would only be relevant if a priest was called to court as a witness, which I haven’t heard of happening. But this Irish proposal goes much further, because it would impose a positive legal duty on a priest to report confessions even without him being questioned in court.

  45. AnAmericanMother, the Dáil (Irish parliament) will have a debate on the Cloyne Report on Tuesday or Wednesday:

    I intend to email Taoiseach Enda Kenny, as Bro. Tom Forde OFM Cap suggests, and the TDs who represent the constituency I go home to. Irish citizens overseas don’t have a vote in Irish elections but politicians do listen to people. I don’t think that the average TD is hostile to the Catholic Church. Most have been raised as Catholics and I would guess that a large percentage of them practice their faith.

    I think that Fr Levi is right. I posted the comment below on the blog of Fr Ray Blake:

    I am inclined to think that this is a non-starter and that the comments of Mr Kenny and of Ms Fitzgerald, Minister for Children and Youth Affairs, are an expression of disgust, a disgust which many of us Irish feel. When the matter is debated in a calmer atmosphere I think that what is being proposed will be seen as a form of abuse parallel to the abuse it is trying to stamp out.
    Today’s Irish Examiner carries this front-page story: ‘THE HSE [Health Service Executive] has ordered an investigation into how social services failed to intervene in what a judge described as the “torture” of eight children by their mother over seven years’.Read more:

    So Irish government workers, and the wider community, failed to do anything about a horrific situation that was known to the authorities and to at least some in the wider community. There was a similar case last year where even the town couldn’t be named for legal reasons.

    A Columban priest from New Zealand, Fr Francis Vernon Douglas, was tortured and killed by the Japanese in the Philippines in 1943 quite probably because he refused to break the seal of confession: .

  46. markomalley says:

    Are any of you in Ireland familiar with the program To Catch a Predator?

    I can picture the Irish version of it: some intrepid RTÉ reporter going in multiple confessionals, armed with a covert tape recorder, and confessing some horrible sins against children. In fact, I can see this reporter trying to do it in every parish church in the country.

    Those priests who comply with this law will be advertised as being good, patriotic, law-abiding priests (praised highly by the press). Never mind the fact that these priests will be latae sententiae excommunicated (reserved to the Apostolic See) per Can 1388 §1.

    And then I can see an entire season of prime-time television being built around videos of the Garda rounding up and frogmarching those priests who did not comply with the law, the shots of the perp-walked priests being interleaved with the tapes of the RTÉ reporter’s fake confession dubbed onto racy video simulating sinful acts against children being perpetrated by actors wearing Roman collars.

    It will make really good television, don’t you think? In fact, I bet that the series will be carried on cable all around the world, inspiring other countries to emulate Ireland with this progressive law.

    (Naturally, I certainly hope that you can detect the bitter sarcasm dripping from the above)

  47. thereseb says:

    What hypocrisy. Journalists are the first to play the martyr when “protecting their sources”. Police protect their narks. Lawyers engage in dextrous ambiguities and fancy footwork to defend murderers and rapists from having their previous conduct admitted in evidence, and always plead the “cab rank” principle when challenged. Doctors won’t tell innocent partners when they are treating venereal disease.

    That said – it was always my understanding that priests were entitled to refuse absolution in some circumstances – including murderers who refused to give themselves up – and that some sins (such as abortion) were actually reserved to Bishops – notwithstanding the impression among the faithful which is based on Chaucer’s Pardoner and that 1950s film with Montgomery Clift.

  48. Patti Day says:

    I have heard more than one priest on EWTN state that they have never refused anyone absolution.

  49. AnAmericanMother says:

    Thanks, Father Coyle.
    Our last Irish relative left around 1800, my husband’s mother’s family in the 1910s. But our parish (in the American South) is fully staffed by native Irishmen!
    If you think it might help, I’ll be glad to write where it would do the most good. Can you advise? Will the Taosaich even read his mail? Electronic or snail mail better?
    Is Gaelic prevalent enough in Ireland still that people actually say ‘Teachta Dála’, or is TD the usual shorthand? (this is all very interesting to me since my knowledge of Irish politics was acquired via Anthony Trollope and is just a bit out of date).

  50. Thereseb wrote: That said – it was always my understanding that priests were entitled to refuse absolution in some circumstances – including murderers who refused to give themselves up – and that some sins (such as abortion) were actually reserved to Bishops – notwithstanding the impression among the faithful which is based on Chaucer’s Pardoner and that 1950s film with Montgomery Clift.

    It is my understanding that confessors may not require the penitent to give himself up for his crime as part of the penance nor as a condition for absolution except in cases where the penitent would thus remain in sin by allowing somebody else to serve time for a crime the penitent has committed. It does not seem that simply not intending to give oneself to the secular authorities is regarded as a separate sin.

    I am not sure that this has always been the case, but I am pretty confident that it is the case now. Of course, the penitent must make restitution in some way shape or form if possible, but it seems that this does not have to include submitting to secular punishment, nor, to my knowledge, may the priest require that the penitent run the serious risk of his sin being made known to others as part of the restitution (except in such cases as above where there is a direct harm to others in not making the sin known, but in such a case this is more part of the firm purpose of amendment as it would count as remaining in sin).

    What the priest strongly urges the penitent to do is quite different.

  51. Arrrrggghhh….I’m not very good with that end quote function. My response to Thereseb obviously starts with the ‘It is my understanding…’.

    I also invite others to correct if my understanding of this is wrong. Perhaps Father could explain the ins and outs of this?

  52. Rouxfus says:

    digdigby – if you are going to quote someone’s writing wholesale, please give the author the courtesy of attribution. Your excellent but disturbing account of Ford’s persecution in an Alabama prison appears to have been copied and pasted from this <a blog entry elsewhere.

  53. AnAmericanMother says:

    Don’t blame digdigby — that horse is long since out of the barn.
    In searching for some verification of the account it contains, I found only multiple postings of that same entry in six or seven different places.
    Wasn’t able to find any independent verification, though.
    (And we do have to be careful not to thoughtlessly slander Alabama, especially since we are aware of the thoughtless slander of Catholics.)

  54. frobuaidhe says:

    In addition to what Brother Tom Ford says, please also flood the Irish ambassador of wherever you live with reasoned outrage. If you are in the USA, which has no pro-Catholic bias, you might want to point out the constitutional amendments which protect the seal in your country. Ours is a clumsy, clod-hopping, inexperienced government; they should be told so.

    All the priests I have spoken to are of the same mind: if this goes through we will pay no fines but go to prison instead.

    To answer a question raised above: TD is the acceptable shorthand for Teachta Dála. I have never seen the longhand form used in English writing.

  55. AnAmericanMother says:

    thanks, frobuaidhe.
    I’ve written the Taosaich . . . we’ll see what happens.
    I don’t think we have an ambassador here, there may be an honorary consul. I’ll have to check it out.

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