Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

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Irish priests must break seal of confession or face prison: new legislation introduced

Hilary White, Rome Correspondent
Hilary White, Rome Correspondent

DUBLIN, July 19, 2011 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A group of Irish priests has announced that the country’s Catholic clergy will refuse to comply with any law requiring them to break the seal of the confession. The statement of defiance comes in response to proposed legislation announced by the government late last week, under which priests could face up to five years in prison for failure to disclose sexual crimes against minors admitted by penitents.

The Irish government said that under the legislation confessions would not be exempt from rules on mandatory reporting of child abuse, claiming that the move is a response to Ireland’s clerical abuse crisis. Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said that the Catholic Church’s canon law would not be allowed to supersede state law.

However, Fr. PJ Madden, a spokesman for the Association of Catholic Priests, told the UK’s Catholic Herald that priests will urge a penitent who confesses to a crime to go to police, but said that the sacramental seal of confession is “above and beyond all else.”

“If I’m breaking the law then somebody has to find a way to address that for me. But in my own right as a priest what I understand is the seal of confession is above and beyond all else,” he said.

David Quinn, a popular Irish columnist and commentator on religion and director of the think-tank the Iona Institute, wrote that such a law would be “unprecedented.” It would, “make us the one and only country in the Western world to have such a law,” he said.

Quinn also pointed to a practical consequence of mandating that priests break the seal of confession: “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.”

But on Friday, Irish Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald said the issue was “non-negotiable” and that the sacrament of confession could not be used as a defense to claim exemption from the new rules.

“If there is a law in the land, it has to be followed by everybody. There are no exceptions, there are no exemptions,” she said. “I’m not concerned, neither is the Government, about the internal laws or rules governing any body.”

She added, “The point is, if there is a law in the land, it has to be followed by everybody. There are no exceptions, there are no exemptions.”

As of this writing, there has been no response from the Irish Catholic bishops; however, an inside source told LSN that the Vatican is gravely concerned with the proposal. In addition to concerns over the damage to the practice of the faith in Ireland, questions are being raised in Rome about enforcement and possible entrapment of priests.

“The only way to enforce this law would be to have people go into confessionals carrying a voice recorder and make false confessions of criminal abuse of minors,” said the source.

The source, an expert in canon law, said that even if Ireland’s anti-clericalist government does not resort to such measures, the country’s tabloid press, looking for sensational news stories, “certainly will.” Under the Church’s canon law, any priest who breaks the seal of confession is subject to automatic excommunication, the Church’s heaviest penalty.

In civil law, the source said, priests are at a great disadvantage when accused of crimes that involve the confessional. Not only can a priest not disclose criminal acts, in most circumstances he is bound not to mention to anyone, including the penitent, any part of anything he has heard in confession. The prohibition is so all-encompassing that a priest may not even reveal whether has heard a particular person’s confession.

This, the source said, leaves the priest in a nearly impossible position when called as a witness in courts. “A priest in such a situation can say only, ‘I can’t say.’”

Legislation to force priests to break the seal would be “unenforceable,” “impractical,” and “a distraction from the main issue,” said the chief executive of the Catholic Church’s child protection watchdog, the National Board for Safeguarding Children, Ian Elliott.

Since the rise of Christian civilization after the fall of the Roman Empire, western jurisprudence has recognized the futility of demanding that priests break the seal. Currently, in the U.S. the seal of confession is specifically protected under two constitutional amendments. In Ireland, the seal has been protected by centuries-old legal custom and precedent.

The Irish Times quoted Dr. Gerard Whyte, associate professor of law at Trinity College Dublin, who said that the seal enjoys a measure of protection under civil law.

It is “well settled in Irish common law that a member of the clergy of any denomination may not be compelled in law to disclose the content of any conversation between him/her and a parishioner unless the parishioner agrees to such disclosure,” he said.

Popular UK priest-blogger, Fr. Ray Blake, wrote that such a law would effectively make it impossible for Catholics in Ireland to practice their faith.

“Ireland will be the only non-totalitarian state to attack the Church in such a way,” Fr. Blake wrote. “Now we can look forward to priest martyrs to the confessional.”

“The problem is of course that only the truly repentant are likely to confess directly to such a sin, the unrepentant stay away from the confessional.”

Fr. Blake also brought up the issue of enforcement, saying, “Do they really expect the priest sitting in a dark Dublin confessional listening to an anonymous voice, who hears such a confession, to run round to the penitents side of the confessional and photograph the anonymous penitent on their iPhone and text the photograph to the authorities?”

He added, “How far is a priest supposed to enquire into people’s sexual proclivities? Will the State take control and issue guidelines?”

The Code of Canon Law, paragraphs 983 and 983 say, “The sacramental seal is inviolable. Accordingly, it is absolutely wrong for a confessor in any way to betray the penitent, for any reason whatsoever, whether by word or in any other fashion.

“The confessor is wholly forbidden to use knowledge acquired in confession to the detriment of the penitent, even when all danger of disclosure is excluded.

“A person who is in authority may not in any way, for the purpose of external governance, use knowledge about sins which has at any time come to him from the hearing of confession.”

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John-Henry Westen John-Henry Westen Follow John-Henry

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Video: Belgian police put a violent end to a legal pro-life rally in Brussels

John-Henry Westen John-Henry Westen Follow John-Henry
By John-Henry Westen
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BRUSSELS, March 31, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Belgian police used force against pro-lifers holding a legal, peaceful picket Tuesday in the center of Brussels, near the European Parliament buildings.  The pro-life rally, led by activists from Poland, was surrounded by an angry mob of abortion supporters, but when the police intervened they forcibly removed the pro-life signs, and even a Polish flag, saying they were provoking aggression.

The pro-life rally, which displayed graphic abortion signs, was legally registered, and organized by Fundacja Pro, a very active pro-life group from Poland, along with Michał Marusik, a Polish Member of European Parliament, and the Instigos Institute.

Kaja Godek, one of Poland’s leading pro-life activists, described the scene at the Luxembourg Square in Brussels for LifeSiteNews:

When we display graphic abortion pictures on the streets of Poland, the reaction we get is mostly sympathetic. In Brussels, we met with aggression and a hysterical reaction. Some furious people surrounded us screaming that we were sick and that the photographs of abortion victims were a lie.

Jacek Januszewski, one of the youth participants, told LifeSiteNews, “They screamed vulgarities and obscene insults, specifically directed at the ladies in our group. They threw firecrackers, physically pushed us, and tried to steal our banners.”

Describing the actions of the police, Januszewski said, “They formed a circle around our group, but were facing us, as if we were the source of aggression, not the mob around us.” He continued, “Even after one of the policemen got hit on the back with something thrown at us by the mob, they still acted as if it was us who caused the danger. We were just standing there in shock."

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“At one point a man dressed in civilian clothes approached us all red in the face, pushed us and tried to take our banners by force,” said Januszewski. “When we resisted, he produced a police ID. We asked him what he was doing and what law allowed him to disrupt a legal demonstration like that. He screamed back at us: ‘I am the law in Brussels.’”

Godek commented on the undercover officer too. “The man in civilian clothes kept pointing to one specific banner we were holding, showing the face of Adolf Hitler with a caption ‘Hitler legalized abortion on demand for Poles.’ [The undercover policeman] was all red in the face and kept saying he didn't like it and that it was upsetting everybody. We told him we were being attacked and needed protection. He said that we were the danger, we were provoking violence.”

Watch videos (exchanges between police and protesters are audible and in English):

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4

Part 5

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LifeSite Writers 2015
Steve Jalsevac Steve Jalsevac Follow Steve

The eye-opening size and scope of this mission

Steve Jalsevac Steve Jalsevac Follow Steve
By Steve Jalsevac
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LifeSite Support staff

Have you ever wondered who is behind LifeSite, and what our organization does with the money you donate?

Sometimes we find that readers of LifeSite, new readers in particular, understandably do not realize the size and scope of our mission: including not just how many millions of people read LifeSite (6 million people last month alone, for the record), but also the number of people and resources required to keep this unique international news service going every day.

It is quite an eye-opener when we list everything involved. Given the exponential growth of LifeSite over the past few years, it seems time to present an update. This should help you to understand why we must set our quarterly campaign goals at the very least at the levels that we do each time.

Every single member of the LifeSite team is passionately dedicated to our mission. Many have families with children and all depend on prayer (we have a staff prayer conference call every morning at 9:30 a.m.) to do this challenging work. They are also highly principled persons who see this work as being much more of personal mission than a “job”.

They care deeply about the issues that we write about and their impact on the world. At least several were on the “other side” in the past and experienced profound conversions to pro-life, pro-family beliefs.

In addition to the English language LifeSite, we also publish two other versions of LifeSite. There is the Spanish language Notifam and the Portuguese language Notifam.  These two services have been completely re-designed and their readership has dramatically increased in the past several months.

Almost all of our journalists are paid salaries or an hourly rate (part-timers). Nearly half are full-time, and the rest are part-time with widely varying total hours per month. A small number of the part-timers are able to offer their work to LifeSite as a no-charge gift to the pro-life and pro-family cause.

Almost all of the news reporters work from their homes. Our one office is located in Front Royal, Virginia in the Human Life International building. Much of the LifeSite, Canada administration work (payroll, bookkeeping, mail and donation receiving, etc.) is contracted to Campaign Life Coalition (CLC) in Toronto. We are very grateful for CLC’s assistance.

Since the introduction of our dramatically new website last year, we have also been able to add prominent paid bloggers to the LifeSite team. In addition to our own bloggers, other notable pro-life bloggers such as Jill Stanek and Ryan Bomberger permit us to re-publish and often give much wider exposure to posts from their blog sites.

Back in September 1997, it was just John-Henry Westen and myself, the two founding staff of Lifesite. Things have certainly changed since then.

CURRENT NEWS TEAM

North America

1.  John-Henry Westen – Co-founder, Editor-in-Chief, journalist
2.  Steve Jalsevac – Co-founder, managing director, editor, journalist
3.  John Jalsevac – Website development, petitions, journalist
4.  Patrick Craine – Managing editor, journalist, Canadian bureau chief
5.  Ben Johnson – US bureau chief, journalist
6.  Dustin Siggins – Washington DC bureau reporter and media outreach
7.  Kirsten Andersen – Washington DC and region reporter
8.  Lisa Bourne – Journalist
9.  Pete Baklinski – Journalist
10. Ted Baklinski – Journalist
11. Lianne Laurence – Toronto journalist and LSN Canada donor relations
12. Steve Weatherbe – Journalist
13. Drew Belsky – Journalist

International

14. Hilary White (Italy) – Rome and Europe reporter
15. Jeanne Smits (Paris, France) – European reporter
16. Andrew Smith – Australian reporter
17. Michelle Kaufman – New Zealand reporter
18. Matthew Hoffman – Latin American reporter
19. Guilherme Ferreira Araujo – Brazilian editor
20. Gualberto Garcia Jones – Latin America bureau chief
21. Sophia Vazquez Mellado – Spanish language reporter
22. Mei-Li Beane – Spanish Language reporter
23. Natalia Dueholm – Polish correspondent
24. Matthew McCusker – London correspondent

Bloggers

25. Anthony Esolen
26. Matt Fradd
27. Abby Johnson
28. Jonathon van Maren
29. Melanie Pritchard

SUPPORT TEAM

30. Jon Fidero – Development Director
31. Andy Parrish – Marketing, media, public relations
32. Clare Maagad – LSN U.S. Office Manager
33. Meghan Mulherin – Database management, Donor relations coordinator
34. Linda Wilson – Donor relations
35. Tommy Farrell – Donor relations
36. Theresa Jalsevac – Daily news subscriber services, article publishing
37. Jacob Westen – Article publishing

EXTERNAL SERVICES

LifeSite employs the services of a wide variety of companies and individuals for website design and development, video production, graphic design, donation processing, mass emailing of the Daily News, web hosting, payroll, legal work, marketing of LifeSite and much more.

Some of these external costs are in the six-figure level, given the large volume and variety of material that we publish, the cutting edge complexity of the website and the high level of traffic that LifeSite must now be able to handle.

We also have on-going and major electronic equipment costs since we are a digital service requiring high quality, reliable and the most up-to-date digital resources.

Finally, our team, and especially John-Henry, have been required to do a lot more travelling in recent years to cover major stories on site and to attend and be actively involved in very important meetings in several nations.  

The Marches for life in Washington, DC, Ottawa Canada and Rome, Italy have required a team of LSN staff. As well, we are the original organizers of the Rome Life Forum in Vatican City that is now billed as a Voice of the Family (which LifeSite co-founded) event and is co-sponsored by a number of International groups.

I hope this has helped you to much better understand our financial needs and will encourage any who might have been hesitant to donate to re-consider and send a generous gift for the LifeSite mission.

We are amazed that so much has been accomplished over the years, thanks especially to the generosity of those who believe in what we do and have wanted to express their appreciation for this work and what it has meant to them.

Please join our other supporters today with your gift.

You can also donate by phone or mail. We would love to hear from you!

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Courtesy of Stand True Ministries
Bryan Kemper Follow Bryan

10 years ago today, Terri Schiavo died an agonizing death. I was with her family. Where were you?

Bryan Kemper Follow Bryan
By Bryan Kemper
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March 31, 2015 (StandTrue.com) -- For twenty-four years I have been involved with pro-life work in one way or another. Over those twenty-four years I have talked to thousands of people about their involvement, why they got involved, how they got involved and what motivates them to continue. We have talked about what happened in 1973 and where were all the Christians when Roe vs. Wade was passed. We would wonder why Christians would ignore human rights and own slaves in the time of the Dred Scott decision. We would tell stories about the few brave Christians that hid Jews during the Holocaust and proclaim that if it were we in those times we would have been a voice. If we were around in those days we would have risked all to save an innocent life; that is what we said, at least.

Ten years ago a young woman in Florida who was handicapped began an agonizing and painful journey towards death. Her husband, who had once made a vow to love and honor her through good times and bad, murdered her on national television. Her husband, who had already broken his vows to her by living with another woman and fathering children with her, went to court to have his wife starved and dehydrated to death. Terri Schiavo held onto life and fought for 13 days before finally dying on Thursday, March 31, 2005.

When I arrived in Florida one week before her death I expected to see thousands and thousands of Christians in front of the hospice praying, singing and crying out for Terri. I expected to see all those people who said, “I would have been there to stand up if I were around in the times of Roe vs. Wade or during the Holocaust.” I was sadly disappointed.

I walked up and saw maybe 150 people at most — some of them familiar faces from the pro-life movement, some of them just wanting to be on TV. I started to walk around and ask where people were from and most of them were from out of town; it was hard to find anyone from the Tampa area there to stand up for Terri. For years I wondered where the Christians were when Roe vs. Wade was passed, and now I had the answer.

I spent the first day walking around the crowd praying with people, talking about what could be done and simply being there in solidarity with our sister as she was dying. When I arrived the second day I talked to Terri’s sister whom I had met in Washington, DC, in January, when I volunteered my services to the family. I was asked to help guard the family and escort them around as everyone was swarming them.

I spent a lot of time just sitting with them and listening to stories about Terri and her life growing up. Her dad told a story about when Terri ran over a cat and how upset she was over this poor little cat. The friends shared beautiful stories and memories that I will treasure forever.

During this time we also spent a lot of time in prayer, with many different Christian leaders and friends. Everyone would be talking about a possible option and then someone would just stop and say, “Let’s pray.” There was more spontaneous prayer than I had ever seen. I would walk among the people there in support and see small groups up and down the street praying, singing hymns and just reading the Scriptures out loud. There may not have been a large group there, but they were dedicated and focused on prayer.

I spent a lot of time walking the family through the media circus to and from the hospice trying to give them a little privacy. I would walk Terri’s dad through the crowd every night as he thanked all the supporters for being there for Terri.

I talked to many of the behind-the-scenes media people who were obviously shaken by this tragedy. I saw people from all different walks of life and political and religious backgrounds taking a stand. There were many non-Christian people there in support of Terri, and dozens of handicapped people from a group called Not Dead Yet. I even spent time in prayer with the Rev. Jesse Jackson as he came to help the family and speak out for Terri. I never in a million years would have believed that I would sit in a room praying with Randal Terry, Jesse Jackson and Sean Hannity.

Each night at about 11:00 PM I would leave the hospice area and go get something to eat and try to catch up on some computer work and grab a few hours of sleep. I talked to a lot of people at different restaurants that would ask us what was really happening there. One night Terri’s brother, Bobby, came out to eat with us. When he left, the people there asked us questions and wanted to know the truth about the whole situation; they were shocked when they got the true facts about Terri.

On Wednesday night I went to the hotel and was especially saddened as we were reaching 13 days. My friend Will and I sat in the pool at the hotel at 2:00 AM discussing the past week and what else could have been done. I finally got to sleep at about 3:00 AM. Early the next morning, I was awoken by Will telling me that Terri had died.

We quickly packed our bags and went to the car to drive over to the hospice a few blocks away. As I got into the car it really began to hit me what had just happened and I started to cry. I picked up my cell phone and called my wife and children; I just needed to hear their voices and tell them I loved them.

I got to the hospice and stood guard outside the room the family was in to give them some privacy. The room was tucked in behind all the major media trucks and production areas. I watched as many of the media producers and reporters were fighting back tears. I watched reporters hugging the family and giving condolences; they were truly touched by Terri’s family. Many of the media that I had gotten to know expressed their grief to me, some of them on-air personalities who were affected greatly.

After the family was done making their statements for the day, I made my rounds to offer my condolences and say my goodbyes. I told the family about all the Stand True supporters and family that had asked me to send their best wishes and prayers. I thanked them for their strength and resolve in the fight for Terri’s life. I let them know that we at Stand True will never let Terri’s name die and that we will continue the fight for life and others like Terri.

I will never forget and I will never stop telling her story. 

HTTP://WWW.TERRISFIGHT.ORG

Also read Father Frank Pavone’s memory of his time with Terri.

HTTP://WWW.WASHINGTONTIMES.COM/NEWS/2015/MAR/30/FRANK-PAVONE-TERRI-SCHIAVOS-INCONVENIENT-LIFE/

Reprinted with permission from Stand True.

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