POLL ALERT! Australia: Legal efforts to force priests to break Seal of Confession!

For POLL info, read to the bottom.

From Australian news.com.au

Priests could be ordered to report confessions of sex abuse to police
Ashley Gardiner
Herald Sun
July 18, 2012 12:00AM

HUNDREDS of years of Catholic tradition in the confessional could be overturned by Victoria’s inquiry into child sex abuse.

Priests would be ordered to reveal crimes told to them in private confessions under one proposal before the inquiry.  [Such a law would require priests to violate the Seal of Confession.  St. John Nepomucene, pray for us.]

But priests say they will resist being forced to reveal secrets of the confessional.

A parliamentary committee also will look at radical new laws that would see bishops face criminal charges for the misconduct of their priests.  [That is an attack on the essence of the Church itself.  It seeks to fragment dioceses.]


Liberal Catholic-haters try this every once in a while.

They know they will lose, but they also know that each time the try it, they get a few people on their side.  With each attempt they hope the can nudge the needle in their direction until… one day…

At the bottom of the page I linked, HERE, there is a POLL on this.  Scroll down.

At the time of this writing:


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Our Catholic Identity, POLLS, Priests and Priesthood, Religious Liberty, The future and our choices, The Last Acceptable Prejudice and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. richly says:

    Looks like the polling is about equal now, the “No” votes about 10 behind last I voted “no.” The haters will twist the issue and accuse the Church of protecting pedophiles and “their own.”

    This is very bad news.

  2. Darren says:


    ‘No’ is up to 52.77% @ 1:08 PM EDT

  3. wmeyer says:

    Oddly enough, there has been a surge in voting….

  4. Tina in Ashburn says:

    But unfortunately this may be a reflection of more such things to come.
    Voted, thanks for the alert Father.

  5. Darren says:

    Re: wmeyer: “Oddly enough, there has been a surge in voting….”

    Very odd indeed….


  6. Legisperitus says:

    It won’t “overturn” the Seal of Confession.

    However flaky priests may be on dogma, I suspect that if their backs are to the wall they will not break the Seal. Perhaps I’m optimistic, but I’ve rarely been accused of being that before.

  7. ArtND76 says:

    Just voted, results were:

    Thanks for voting!
    Should priests report to police crimes revealed in the confessional?

    Yes 40.62% (351 votes)
    No 59.38% (513 votes)

    Total votes: 864

  8. Sam Schmitt says:

    What gets me angry about this sort of thing is not only the anti-Catholicism, but how utterly DUMB the whole proposal is.

    If you think about it, what criminal is going to confess to a priest knowing the priest will turn around and tell the authorities? What if the criminal then denies the allegation? Given that the confession was completely private and there is absolutely no way to corroborate what was said, what good is it in a court of law?

    The whole thing is transparently ridiculous.

  9. anilwang says:

    [That is an attack on the essence of the Church itself. It seeks to fragment dioceses.]

    Actually, it’s far worse since it can be combined with the seal of confession. It means that if one priest does not break the seal of confession, the whole diocese is liable. Given how often law suits that fail to get criminal remedies are often followed up by civil law suits for damages (since the standard of convictions are far lower), it means that if one priest upholds the Catholic Faith, the whole diocese may be forced into bankruptcy.

    This is far more insidious than the outright persecutions in the past where Catholicism was illegal, punishments were bloody, and governments had to make up (refutable) propaganda to justify their evil (which people eventually get sick of, even if they hate Catholics). Here Catholicism is legal, but any priest (and often laity) who actually practices Catholicism is taxed and sued out of existence with no justification needed and no government to take the blame for the evil. To me this “neat and clean” “white collar persecution” is far worse then the bloody type.

  10. albinus1 says:

    This sounds like an excellent argument for abolishing face-to-face Confession. If all Confessions were anonymous again, even if a priest did break the Seal of the Confessional, what would he say? That an unidentifiable, disembodied voice confessed to xyz?

    Efforts like this show that the authorities have no idea how sacramental Confession works.

  11. Fr. William says:

    Anonymity: it is a wonderful thing! This is why I have a solid wall between myself and the penitent and why the screen in the Confessional does not allow for either the penitent or confessor to see the other. Remember, there are ways in which we can make the sacrament ineffective (absence of contrition, absence of intent to enter into conversion, etc.). If one is contrite, intent on entering into conversion, etc. then forgiveness is present. The sacrament is not about magic, it is about grace and an encounter that life may change. Even if forgiveness is present this still does not remove us from the earthly consequences of our actions. The contrite penitent will be moved to offer “satisfaction” for their sins; that is an essential component of the sacrament. If anonymity exists, the most I can say as a confessor is that someone came to me for Confession but I cannot ever say, with 100% surety WHO comes to Confession. It is, once more, the work of God, not only of mercy but of conversion as well. The Seal should never be broken, as horrendous and heinous as the sin and crime of abuse is, once the Seal starts to be broken things begin to fall apart.

  12. Marcin says:

    Just voted.
    I wish I had such a sway power in the coming presidential election…

  13. Supertradmum says:

    Ireland wants to do this as well. Martyrs will come from these draconian laws.
    See how Satan got more than his “foot” in the door through the sex-abuse scandals?

  14. Blue Henn says:

    As of 1435 EST:
    Thanks for voting!
    Should priests report to police crimes revealed in the confessional?
    Yes 37.73% (418 votes)
    No 62.27% (690 votes)
    Total votes: 1108


  15. chcrix says:

    No’s are about 63% now.

    Interesting. How could such a law be enforced? The only way I can think of is for Stasi types to infiltrate the confessional and make fake confessions. I suppose that prosecutors could also suborn perjury by offering deals to apprehended sex offenders in exchange for false information against specific priests. Actually, that’s pretty close to what happens on a lot of regular criminal prosecutions in the U.S.

    Isn’t the modern state a work of wonder?

  16. AndyMo says:

    Waitwaitwait. “HUNDREDS of years of Catholic tradition”? When did they think this started?

  17. RichR says:

    Priests will just exercise their right to hear confessions behind the screen…..always. Unless they are approached individually, they are pretty well-protected there. Plausible deniability.

  18. heway says:

    I am wondering where they would jail a diocese of priests committed to the seal of confession??
    As already said, enforcement would be another rpoblem. Our little church has a screen and a chair for face to face. It happens to be in a tiny hallway between the sacristry and the church. The priest passes through on his way to the altar. We are a misson church in a truly mission diocese designed for Native Americans by Pope Pius XII. Also, I cannot imagine a ‘criminal’ not wanting to use a screen.

  19. Will D. says:

    RichR, as chchrix points out, they could use false confessions to entrap priests. Bugging the confessional would also be a way to enforce this.
    Should such a law be passed, I wonder if the Pope would bring back the harsh old penalty of a local canonical interdiction. It would be a drastic measure, but the state attempting to breach the confessional is pretty drastic, too.

  20. JKnott says:

    Interesting number just now for the Yes votes!

    Thanks for voting!
    Should priests report to police crimes revealed in the confessional?

    Yes 38.23% (666 votes)
    No 61.77% (1076 votes)

    Total votes: 1742

  21. lucy says:

    Voted no. God help us.

  22. Chris Garton-Zavesky says:

    I haven’t voted yet, but what is to be gained in voting? When “they” get the results they want, they treat them as evidence, and when they don’t, they make up other evidence. Even though a court must construe according to the law, in the hands of those who don’t care about anything except results, the letter and the meaning of the law will be no more than a bump in the road.

  23. Legisperitus says: However flaky priests may be on dogma, I suspect that if their backs are to the wall they will not break the Seal. Perhaps I’m optimistic, but I’ve rarely been accused of being that before.

    I agree with this. In fact, just this morning, I was reading St. Thomas More’s Dialogue Concerning Heresies on this very subject. He said the proof that would be dispositive, even in the absence of any other evidence, that the Sacrament of Penance is established by God, is that as bad as many priests were — liars, cheats, thieves, lechers, murderers — yet it was never heard that any had betrayed the secrets of the confessional, a thing that would not be possible if the Holy Spirit were not at work in the Sacrament.

  24. letchitsa1 says:

    As of just after 5pm EDT

    Thanks for voting!
    Should priests report to police crimes revealed in the confessional?
    Yes 40.17% (852 votes)
    No 59.83% (1269 votes)
    Total votes: 2121

  25. Joan M says:

    Should priests report to police crimes revealed in the confessional?

    Yes 41.02% (914 votes)
    No 58.98% (1314 votes)

    Total votes: 2228

    Keep the votes rolling!!

  26. Josephus Muris Saliensis says:

    Keep at it, men. Now ‘NO’- 56% – going down!

  27. albinus1 says:

    Should such a law be passed, I wonder if the Pope would bring back the harsh old penalty of a local canonical interdiction. It would be a drastic measure, but the state attempting to breach the confessional is pretty drastic, too.

    But only the faithful would be hurt by such an action. At a time when the entire society, including the authorities, were Catholic, interdiction would have an effect. But what are non-Catholic authorities going to care about a canonical interdiction? Again, that would only hurt the faithful.

  28. Random Friar says:

    I don’t know if I’d resist, if someone asked me to break the seal. That would imply a fight.

    I wouldn’t fight. I’d just tell them to go to Hell, keep working, and if they want to drag me down to the pokey, so be it. If they ask about jailhouse Confessions, see previous response.

  29. frjim4321 says:

    This is a difficult issue.

    I think that just as an abusive cleric can rely on her/his attorney for confidentiality the same should be said of the confessor.

    That being said, I must report that I have found among priests ordained over the past 15 – 20 years there is VERY sloppy attitude regarding the seal of confession.

    For example, on the local faux-Catholic radio station a priest (seems to be a replacement for the massively annoying Larry Richards . . . don’t know why he got booted… dont know if he is still “suitable”) was referring to the kind of stuff he hears in the confessional. For example, he was talking about how much pornography, masturbation and infidelity there is “out there” on the basis of the confessions he hears – clearly a public breach of the seal of confession!

    So, if the so-called JPII priests are so sloppy with the seal, they leave themselves open to challenges like this.

    At my worst assignment before becoming a pastor the other associate dropped a few pieces of info that made it possible for me to figure out a confessional situation. Very sloppy. So before we go all Henny Penny about something that might or might not be going on in Australia, let’s tighten up the seal here first with the JPII priests.

  30. Bea says:

    57.68 % NO is where it stands when I just voted.
    I’ll bet you’ve got something to do with this, Fr. Z. Yay

  31. Microtouch says:

    If you look at the poll bargraph they are even inspite of there being a 10 point difference. Coincidence? I think not.

  32. Peter G says:

    Those of us that live here in Melbourne where this inquiry is being conducted knew that these fruitcake ideas would surface from the day the enquiry was announced.
    Priests are already on the front foot saying they won’t comply with any obligation to break the seal of confession.
    Suggested action against bishops will go nowhere as our laws will not be able to restrict this to the church and employer groups will not stand by and allow themselves to be held accountable for any illegal conduct by their employees.

  33. LiteratureAddict says:

    Bar graph is still even, but it’s
    38.4% YES
    61.6% NO.

  34. Johnno says:


    That’s not at all the same thing. No specific people were alluded to. Priests often bring up topics of things they generally receive in the confessional for good reasons that do not betray the confessors. Most of the time it’s general stuff that affects 100% of us. The point is often to stress the immorality around us and the traps we should avoid. Was God breaking people’s privacy when He provided the 10 commandments? Was Christ wrong to talk about all the sins that affected many people in His day from the tax collectors to the religious leaders, to the common man? A priest bringing up topics generally heard in the confession in order to preach against them and help the people is one thing. It is quite another to share specific information and specifically identifying the person responsible for it for all to know.

  35. frjim4321 says:

    Johnno, I respectfully but strongly disagee. The seal of the confessional is absolute and there is no relaxation of the seal that permits priest to make comments about what kind of things are confessed and how often. For example, a priest makes a comment about how much pornography and masturbation he hears about, someone looking and his confession line assumes some of those in the queue are engaged in those behaviors.

    As I stated before, a priest who thought he was make such a generic comment actuall provided me with a piece of information that enabled me to complete a picture I alread knew a lot about, thus confiming a suspicion that was a breech of the seal. The seal is inviolate and does not permit a priest to say “I hear a lot of infidelity, etc.”. Sorry but you are not correct here.

  36. frjim4321 says:

    Again, totally serious in my observation that younger priests very sloppy about the seal.

    What we hear in the confessional disappears – it is gone – it is not to be commented on in any way.

    We could learn a lot from those in the mental health profession. They know how to maintain confidentiality

    Also, once priest breaks or is sloppy about the seal it gives the state entre. If the priest breaks the seal the civil protection disappears.

    Typos tonight curtesy of tiny BlackBerry screen and wrong contact lenses.

  37. acardnal says:

    @frjim4321: LOL. I was wondering about those very uncharacteristic typos! “Wrong contact lenses” is a new one.

  38. frjim4321 says:

    Usually wear monovision correction but have a distance contact for my “reading” eye for sports, sightseeing, etc. When the distance lens is in my right eye I can’t read

  39. robtbrown says:

    I completely agree with FrJim4321 on this matter. No priest can refer to confessional matter that will directly or indirectly allow or encourage someone to attribute it to a person or any group.

  40. mike cliffson says:

    1953 Hitchcock”I confess”, I read that hitchcock wanted the film to end with the falsely accused priest being executed rather than break the seal.

  41. poorlady says:

    I voted “no”.
    We’ve got a big battle coming up–PRAY hard! Pray to Our Lady and St. Joseph.

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