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Cdl. Stephen Chow, S.J., at the Vatican, September 30, 2023Michael Haynes

HONG KONG (LifeSiteNews) — A Catholic priest familiar with the persecution of the Church in Hong Kong has told LifeSiteNews that following the approval of the new domestic security law by the CCP – which would require priests to report “crimes of treason” of which they become aware, even in the confessional, in violation of the seal of silence to which they are bound – some Hong Kong priests have expressly stated “they are willing to be sentenced for the protection of the seal.”

READ: Hong Kong passes national security law which activists warn attacks seal of confession

The government of Hong Kong published the new security law, titled Article 23, just two weeks ago and approved it on March 19. The sweeping, draconian law requires Catholic priests to break the seal of the confessional by revealing any crimes of “treason” they hear confessed, with a potential 14-year imprisonment facing those who refuse. The law is a direct attack on the integrity of the sacramental seal of silence, to which all priests are bound, even should it require the shedding of their blood. The full text of the new domestic security law was made publicly available on March 8.

LifeSiteNews asked a priest familiar with the situation in Hong Kong whether clergy of the diocese were unhappy with Cardinal Stephen Chow’s refusal to oppose and condemn the new law for its implications regarding Confession, and whether the laity in Hong Kong have expressed concerns or disappointment at the archbishop’s response and his friendliness toward the CCP and the Patriotic Association.

READ: Hong Kong’s Cardinal Chow refuses to condemn new law which could attack seal of confession

The priest, who wished to remain anonymous because of the increased dangers for Catholic clergy on account of the CCP, said, “First of all, we have to understand that no one in Hong Kong nowadays dares to oppose anything in public. So priests and laity simply re-posted the statement of the diocese without comments on social media and groups. Many people, priests and laity, just accepted the reality and found excuses for the bishop: that he is trying his best to maintain the stability of the diocese.”

Commenting on whether anyone felt disappointed, the priest further elucidated, “Definitely, but not [as] many as we suppose.”

Insisting that what was at stake was the protection of the sacramental seal and the ability of the Church to preach the Gospel in its integrity, the asked, “Should the bishop do more and give a clearer statement to protect the sacredness of the seal of confession? No doubt, especially if pastors of souls follow strictly to Canon Law, can. 760, 769.”

Canon 760 of the Church’s Code of Canon Law states, “The mystery of Christ is to be set forth completely and faithfully in the ministry of the word, which must be based upon sacred scripture, tradition, liturgy, the magisterium, and the life of the Church.” And Canon 769 states, “Christian doctrine is to be set forth in a way accommodated to the condition of the listeners and in a manner adapted to the needs of the times.”

Highlighting the way in which the practice of the faith in its integrity is already being undermined among the Catholic faithful under the new security law, the priest explained that because of the dangers now threatening the integrity of the sacrament and the lives of priests, some Hong Kong Catholics have said they will no longer avail themselves of the sacrament of Confession.

“Some people on social media claimed they won’t go to Confession from now on, to protect priests; someone said we should trust God on this matter instead of depriv[ing] ourselves [of] the mercy of God.”

On the other hand, the priest said other members of the clergy affirmed they would willingly suffer imprisonment before breaking the seal of the sacrament.

“Some priests stated that they are willing to be sentenced for the protection of the seal,” the priest said.

READ: Hong Kong law will drive clergy into hiding to avoid violating seal of confession: priest

In his own opinion on the official statement of the diocese, the priest criticized the apparent fear of Cardinal Chow, saying, “The bishop hid himself behind the social communications office, made the event merely political and social but not pastoral.”

He continued, “Most strikingly, the last point of the statement just states a general fact. Of course a civil law would never able to alter Canon Law, but now the civil authority is going to ignore a non-compromise Canon Law.”

“What are you going to do to ensure the faithful that their consciences are always safe in the confessional?” the priest asked. “It is very much a pastoral issue to me.”

The priest had previously told LifeSiteNews that the island’s clergy will resist the Communist government’s new security law and that the law will likely force priests to go into hiding to continue their ministry in an increasingly hostile environment, which mirrors more and more the persecution of the underground Catholic Church in mainland China.

In its 2019 document on the seal of Confession, the Apostolic Penitentiary instructed that the obligation to keep the seal of Confession is so grave that a priest must shed his blood before breaking silence.

“The defence of the sacramental seal by the confessor, if necessary usque ad sanguinis effusionem (even to the shedding of blood), represents not only an act of dutiful ‘allegiance’ towards the penitent, but much more: a necessary testimony – a ‘martyrdom’ – rendered directly to the uniqueness and salvific universality of Christ and the Church,” Rome declared.

Taipei Times reported that, just a week ago, Hong Kong Secretary for Justice Paul Lam said in response to a lawmaker’s question that it would be “very difficult to create exceptions” from the law for priests and social workers.

However, despite the clear threat to priests and the integrity of the seal of Confession for the Catholic faithful, Cardinal Chow – who has called for the Sinicization of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong, following the mandate of the CCP, which is seeking increasing control of the Hong Kong Catholic Church – has refused to oppose or condemn the new security law, leaving both priests and faithful at the mercy of the Communist regime.

In a press release issued March 15, the cardinal stated:

The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong has the following response to the recent social concern over Confession (Sacrament of Reconciliation) :
1. With regard to the legislation of Article 23 on safeguarding national security, the Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong recognizes that citizens have an obligation to ensure national security;
2. The Catholic Diocese of Hong Kong has expressed its views on Article 23 legislation;
3. The legislation of Article 23 will not alter the confidential nature of Confession
(Sacrament of Reconciliation) of the Church.

In a joint letter written by Hong Kong Watch co-founder and CEO Benedict Rogers and published on March 13, 16 signatories condemned Hong Kong’s new security law, expressing their “profound and grave concerns” about the direct threat it poses for religious freedom and the confidentiality of the Catholic sacrament of Confession.

“To force a priest to reveal what has been said in Confession, against his will and conscience and in total violation of the privacy of the individual confessing, is a total violation of Article 18 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and as such is completely unacceptable and must be condemned by people of conscience of all faiths and none throughout the world,” signatories declared.

READ: Religious freedom advocates condemn new Hong Kong law which could attack seal of confession