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HONG KONG (LifeSiteNews) — A Catholic priest said the clergy of Hong Kong will resist the Communist government’s new law requiring citizens to reveal crimes of “treason.” Because no exception was written into the law, it would force priests to violate the seal of silence required in the sacrament of confession, an ecclesiastical crime that incurs the penalty of automatic excommunication from the Church.

The government of Hong Kong published the new security law last week that seeks to require 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 Friday.

In an exclusive interview with LifeSiteNews, a priest familiar with the situation of the Catholic Church in Hong Kong who asked to remain anonymous on account of the persecution of the Chinese Communist Party against the Catholic Church, said that the government’s new domestic security law will likely force Catholic priests to go into hiding to continue their ministry in the increasingly hostile environment of Hong Kong, which mirrors more and more the persecution of the underground Catholic Church in mainland China.

READ: Proposed Hong Kong law could cut off island’s Catholics from the Vatican


LifeSiteNews’ interview follows below.

LSN: Are priests now in danger of being pressured to reveal what they hear in confession, thereby breaking the seal?

Priest: If no exemptions will be made in the article 23, I would say yes. The corrupted judicial system has demonstrated their ruthlessness to all political victims.

LSN: Has the government explicitly indicated that they may target priests for information?

Priest: The truth is, not even the legislators themselves understand fully what the article 23 is saying. Rather (than) making a law, they are repeating slogans to express their loyalty to the Beijing government. Whereas HK is a city with no strong religious background, relevant topics usually would not be concerned, at least not at the beginning of everything. Meanwhile, all religions, including the Catholic Church, maintain a cooperative attitude with the authority. So, no, no one said they will target priests, nor (that) they won’t. That’s why (there are) doubts and fear.

LSN: In what ways are priests already targeted by the CCP? Are priests watched by the government?

Priest: It is unknown. Certainly, the CCP has all the information they need. Except (for) Cardinal (Joseph) Zen, we don’t have an outstanding figure similar to St. Romero, Bl. Popieluszko, or Cardinal Sin.

Are they watching? They always are. Are they watching closely particular priests? I think so, especially those who (were) deeply involved in the 2019 movement. But being targeted? Not yet, I would say.

LSN: How has Hong Kong Cardinal Stephen Chow responded? Has he objected to the law or insisted that priests must keep the sacramental seal?

Priest: Up to this moment, he didn’t say anything yet, as far as I know, publicly or privately. Is he going to say anything? Eventually he needs to, but I lack the wisdom to predict a response in his usual smart way, which offends no side and assures of nothing.

LSN: Has there been talk within Hong Kong of joining the diocese to the Patriotic Association?

Priest: For years, no one brought it up in a serious way for discussions, but everyone has a similar, humanly speaking, helpless and negative viewpoint. Only very few, I guess, would be thrilled to join the CPA (the Chinese Patriotic Association). Some of us assumed that the CCP would not force us to join but will automatically accept us into the Association. How many would stand up and say no by then? I remain (in) my negativity. However, would priests defend the confessional seal even (if) the higher ecclesiastic authority would not? On this, I do have faith.

LSN: If this happens, will faithful priests have to go into hiding?

Priest: Surely. However, HK is too small to go underground. Either exile or retired would be more practical.

READ: Catholic diocese of Hong Kong ‘working with CCP’ to effect ‘Sinicization’: report


Another priest knowledgeable of the situation in Hong Kong, who also wished to remain anonymous on account of the CCP, told LifeSiteNews, “This article 23 sends a chilling effect to Catholics, in the sense that they would not dare to be completely open in their confessions for fear of jeopardizing the priest also. Priests would be concerned that the government may send spies to pose as penitents and record the confession. Say the spy confess a sin of treason and the priest doesn’t report, the priest will be prosecuted.”

Human rights watchdog, Hong Kong Watch, strongly condemned the new law, drawing attention to the danger it poses for Catholic priests. In a statement on the issue, the group declared, “The Bill is likely to place pressure on Catholic priests and other religious leaders to report information. Yesterday the Secretary for Justice Lam Ting-kwok indicated that priests should report individuals who confess to plans to commit acts that are criminalised under the security laws, in breach of the confidentiality of Confession. Failure to report a crime or a plan to commit a crime under the security law could result in imprisonment of up to 14 years. This undermines the vital principle of confidentiality of Catholic confessions and other religious practices, and explicitly threatens freedom of religion or belief in Hong Kong.”

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.


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