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

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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Prof. Robert Spaemann, a close friend of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, says Amoris Laetitia directly contradicts St. John Paul II’s teaching.
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Pope’s exhortation is a ‘breach’ with Catholic Tradition: leading German philosopher

Claire Chretien Claire Chretien

April 28, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – A prominent Catholic philosopher and close friend of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI said Thursday that Pope Francis’s exhortation Amoris Laetitia is a “breach” with Catholic tradition and directly contradicts the teachings of Pope St. John Paul II in his exhortation Familiaris Consortio.

"If the pope is not willing to make a correction, it is up to another pontificate to officially put things back into order."

Professor Robert Spaemann told the Catholic News Agency’s German branch that changing the Church’s sacramental practice would be “a breach with its essential anthropological and theological teaching on human marriage and sexuality.”

“It is clear to every thinking person who knows the texts that are important in this context that [with Amoris Laetitia] there is a breach” with the Church’s Tradition, Spaemann said.

The professor’s remarks were translated by Dr. Maike Hickson in an article at OnePeterFive.

In Familiaris Consortio, Pope St. John Paul II upheld the Church’s longstanding approach to the question of admitting to the Sacraments remarried divorcees, by writing:

…the Church reaffirms her practice, which is based upon Sacred Scripture, of not admitting to Eucharistic Communion divorced persons who have remarried. They are unable to be admitted thereto from the fact that their state and condition of life objectively contradict that union of love between Christ and the Church which is signified and effected by the Eucharist. Besides this, there is another special pastoral reason: if these people were admitted to the Eucharist, the faithful would be led into error and confusion regarding the Church's teaching about the indissolubility of marriage.

Footnote 351 of Amoris Laetitia seemingly contradicts the above passage by asserting that in certain cases, integrating back into the Church the divorced and remarried and others in “irregular” situations “can include the help of the sacraments.”  The footnote then mentions both Confession and the Eucharist.

Bishop Athanasius Schneider, Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Maria Santissima in Astana, Kazakhstan criticized Amoris Laetitia for its lack of clarity on the subject.  “Analyzing some of the affirmations of AL with an honest understanding, as they are in their own context, one finds that there is a difficulty in interpreting them according to the traditional doctrine of the Church,” wrote Schneider.

Spaemann also condemned the exhortation’s seeming embrace of “situation ethics” as opposed to universal norms and its call to not judge people’s actions that directly contradict the Church’s sexual ethics.

“When it comes to sexual relations which are in objective contradiction to the Christian order of life, I would like to know from the pope after which time period and under which conditions such an objectively sinful behavior becomes a conduct which is pleasing to God,” said Spaemann. 

By turning “chaos into principle” with “one stroke of a pen,” Pope Francis is leading the Church “into the direction of schism,” Spaemann said—and he warned that such a schism would not be “at the periphery, but in the middle of the Church.” 

Spaemann also warned that Amoris Laetitia may be used to bully faithful priests. He wrote:

Each individual cardinal, as well as each bishop and each priest is now called to preserve in his field of authority the Catholic Sacramental Order and to confess it publicly. If the pope is not willing to make a correction, it is up to another pontificate to officially put things back into order.

RELATED

Famed German Catholic philosopher makes waves for criticizing Pope Francis’ ‘autocratic’ style



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The Institute for Family Health, a federally qualified health center, has been running an abortion facility in apparent violation of federal law.
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Federally funded community health center may have illegally performed abortions: Report

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WASHINGTON, D.C., April 28, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – A federally qualified health center (FQHC) apparently performed abortions, although nearly all federal funds are forbidden from being used for that purpose, sources tell LifeSiteNews. Now, pro-life congressmen are demanding further investigations into the use of U.S. taxpayer funds to promote abortion-on-demand.

The issue came to light when a federal inspector general's report found that six Americorps volunteers had been acting as "abortion doulas," giving emotional support to women who chose to have abortions.

The National Association of Community Health Centers (NACHC) allowed the volunteers – who received tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars – to support abortions that took place inside a New York abortion facility run by the Institute for Family Health (IFH).

Americorps “volunteers” illegally supporting abortion at taxpayer expense is an ongoing problem. But there's more to the story.

The IFH proudly advertises itself as a federally qualified health center (FQHC). Federal dollars are restricted from underwriting most abortion at FQHCs, in line with the Hyde Amendment. This does not hold true for the Affordable Care Act, conventionally known as ObamaCare.

To ease qualms raised by pro-life Democrat Bart Stupak and others, on March 24, 2010, Barack Obama signed Executive Order 13535. It states that “the Hyde [Amendment] language shall apply to the authorization and appropriations of funds for Community Health Centers...I hereby direct the Secretary of HHS to ensure that program administrators and recipients of federal funds are aware of and comply with the limitations on abortion services imposed on CHCs by existing law.”

Pro-life groups warned at the time that an executive order was insufficient to prevent taxpayer funding of abortion, and the law itself had to be amended – or defeated.

Stupak, who voted for ObamaCare before retiring from Congress, later said he was “perplexed and disappointed” by President Obama's “double cross” during the law's implementation.

Pro-life experts today say Congress must investigate whether the law is being violated and, if so, if the offense is isolated to IFH.

"For years the Obama administration has claimed that the Affordable Care Act and federally-funded health centers do not subsidize abortion, and the president finally signed additional provisions, passed last year by Congress, to ensure that community health centers do not use federal funds to support abortion,” said Arina Grossu, the director of the Center for Human Dignity at the Family Research Council. “Now we learn that CNCS is violating the law by helping women obtain abortions.”

“This blatant violation of federal law by CNCS and AmeriCorps demands that Congress investigate government-funded community health centers,” Grossu said. “It's time for this administration to stop foisting its radical abortion agenda on the American people and using their tax dollars to do so.” 

Pro-life advocates have long said that there is no need to fund Planned Parenthood, because federal women's health dollars could be reappropriated to FQHCs, which do not perform abortion.

There are 9,170 federally qualified health centers compared to about 700 Planned Parenthood facilities, according to the Charlotte Lozier Institute. FQHCs see 21.1 million patients a year, while Planned Parenthood saw 2.8 million people, the institute reported.

The latest example of federal dollars being channeled to support abortion, the law notwithstanding, has undermined some confidence in the FQHCs.

Rep. Diane Black, a pro-life Republican from Tennessee, said, “NACHC didn’t just break the rules; they broke trust with the American people. My constituents expect that federal funding given to our community health centers will be used to protect and enhance people’s lives, not to be a willing partner in their destruction.”

At least two Congressional leaders – the chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee and the chair of the House Health Subcommittee – have promised they will take action immediately.

“Federal law demands that taxpayer dollars are never to be spent on abortion activities. Not one penny. Period. But a disturbing report from an independent watchdog reveals that was not the case with brazen pursuits by the National Association of Community Health Centers,” said Congressmen Fred Upton and Joseph Pitts of Pennsylvania, both Republicans. “The law was violated and this shameful failure of trust will not be tolerated.”



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Abortion lobbyists demand Ted Cruz renounce pro-life leader Troy Newman

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WICHITA, Kansas, April 28, 2016 (LifeSiteNews) – The nation's largest abortion providers, an abortion lobbying group, and an ultra-liberal political organization are demanding that Senator Ted Cruz cut ties with Operation Rescue President Troy Newman – something that only proves how effective he has been, Newman's organization says.

Planned Parenthood, NARAL Pro-Choice America, and People for the American Way are asking Cruz to fire Newman as national co-chair of the “Pro-Lifers for Cruz” coalition, claiming that Newman supports violence.

“Troy Newman’s history of violent rhetoric and harassment toward women’s health providers is truly beyond the pale,” the three say in a letter to Sen. Cruz, linking to quotations from his 2000 book, Their Blood Cries Out.

“What Planned Parenthood and their cohorts call 'violent rhetoric' is really a discussion of Old Testament Bible verses taken out of context,” said Cheryl Sullenger of Operation Rescue and co-author of the book Their Blood Cries Out. The work establishes the sinful guilt of abortion before highlighting the mercy available in the New Testament for those who accept Jesus Christ, Sullenger said.

The letter also cites a report from the National Abortion Federation stating that abortionists have experienced an increase in “hate speech and internet harassment” since the release of CMP's undercover videos of Planned Parenthood, “which Newman was a driving force behind.”

“What they call 'harassment' is peaceful activism that is completely protected by the First Amendment,” Sullenger responded.

Newman has consistently denounced criminal action and violence of any kind during his decades in the pro-life movement, Operation Rescue said of the allegations – many of which were circulated to prevent Newman from entering Australia last year.

“Newman’s position on abortion-related violence is clear. He denounces violence against abortion providers as well as the violence perpetrated by the abortion cartel against innocent babies in the womb and their mothers,” Sullenger said.

“Attacking the messenger is the only way they have to try to discredit the hefty volume of evidence against them. This most recent attack is all about manipulating the public’s perception against those who exposed Planned Parenthood in order to deflect attention from their own crimes.”

But the three groups poured vitriolic scorn on Newman. Michael Keegan, president of People for the American Way, called Newman's role “completely unacceptable...No politician should be allowed to pander to violent anti-choice extremists without being called out.”

NARAL Pro-Choice America President Ilyse Hogue said, "Troy Newman is an anti-choice extremist and misogynist ideologue.”

A Planned Parenthood executive said the choice proved Sen. Cruz and his vice presidential choice, Carly Fiorina, are unfit for office.

“It is not surprising to see Ted Cruz embrace this type of violent extremism -- after all this is the same man who has told malicious lies about Planned Parenthood, would criminalize abortion, and tried to shut down the government” to defund Planned Parenthood, said Dawn Laguens, executive vice president of the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. “This is what the Cruz-Fiorina ticket stands for."

Sullenger dismissed their rhetoric as “a feeble attempt to hurt the presidential candidacy of Sen. Ted Cruz, who they know will seek to enforce the laws against them.”

Cruz has repeatedly stated that, if he is elected president, he will defund Planned Parenthood – before prosecuting them.

Their letter has led to a number of articles in the mainstream media, including Politico, the Huffington Post, and Glamour. The last publication, a feminist magazine aimed at young women, slammed Ted Cruz's choice of Carly Fiorina for vice president, telling its readers to “hold on to your uterus.”

“Not one of these publications bothered to reach out to Newman or Operation Rescue’s staff for their response,” Sullenger said.

This morning and afternoon, both sides of the abortion debate have used the Twitter hashtag #FireTroy to get their message across.

Sen. Cruz has not responded to the call, but the letter implies that purging Newman from the campaign would not satisfy the pro-abortion coalition. “There are a number of coalition members whose records raise serious concerns,” they say.



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