In my home diocese (in Australia) our Bishop has decreed that all people who enter a church must sign into a visitor’s book and include their name, contact details and the time of entry and departure.
This is supposedly in accordance with the civil law of Corona Virus tracing – however the civil law makes it clear that the visitors book can be used “if the person chooses”, and is hence voluntary. The diocese is as a result stepping beyond the civil law.
I have concerns about the broader privacy issues, but principally I am concerned about the security of secret confessions. The civil jurisdiction in which I live has officially abolished the legal protections of seal of confession. Can and should churches compulsorily record the time and presence of people if confessions are being offered? And where such a record is being collected for the Civil governments purposes.
GUEST PRIEST RESPONSE: Fr. Tim Ferguson
Invalid laws do not require compliance. We read in the Regulae Iuris of Pope Boniface VIII, for example, “Ea quae fiunt a iudice, si ad eius non spectant officium, non subsistent.” (n. 26) That which a judge does if it is outside of his competence does not stand.
It is beyond the scope of a bishop’s authority to require the revelation of conscience that is forbidden by the universal law.
Canon 983 establishes that the sacramental seal is inviolable and uses the rare canonical construction “nefas est” to show the gravity of this inviolability. The confessor may not reveal the details of the confession under any circumstances.
The Catechism of the Council of Trent is even clearer,
“The faithful are to be admonished that there is no reason whatever to apprehend that what is made known in confession will ever be revealed by the priest to anyone, or that by it the penitent can at any time be brought into danger of any sort.”
Were it me, I would sign the register with the name: John Nepomucene, or Mateo Correa Magallanes, or Peter Marielux, all saints who suffered martyrdom rather than violate the sacred seal of the confessional.