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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Two Congressmen confirm: National 20-week ban on abortion will come up for a vote shortly

Dustin Siggins Dustin Siggins Follow Dustin
By Dustin Siggins

WASHINGTON, D.C., April 17, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) – A bill to end abortion in the United States after 20 weeks will move forward, and it will have the strong support of two leading pro-life Congressmen, the two Republicans told LifeSiteNews.com at the eighth annual Susan B. Anthony List Campaign for Life Summit on Thursday.

Rep. Chris Smith, R-NJ, told LifeSiteNews and the National Catholic Register that ongoing House discussions on H.R. 36, the "Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act," will result in a pro-life bill moving forward.

"Very good language" is being put together, Smith told The Register. He told LifeSiteNews that he fully anticipated being able to support the final bill, because the House Republican caucus "wouldn't have something that would be unsupportable. Our leadership is genuinely pro-life."

In 2013, the "Pain Capable Unborn Child Protection Act" easily passed through the House of Representatives, only to be stalled by a Democratic-controlled Senate. This year, an identical bill was halted by Rep. Renee Ellmers, R-NC, and other Republicans -- surprising and angering pro-life leaders who thought its passage was assured. That bill, H.R. 36, is now being rewritten so it can be voted on by the full House, though its final wording remains uncertain.

Some fear that the House leadership will modify the bill to mollify Ellmers. She and others objected that the bill allows women to abort a child after 20 weeks in the case of rape – but only if they report that rape to the authorities.

Pro-life activists say removing the reporting requirement would take abortionists at their word that the women whose children they abort claimed to be raped. Congresswoman Ellmers has publicly stated the House leadership is considering such a proposal.

Jill Stanek, who was recently arrested on Capitol Hill as part of a protest to encourage Republicans to pass H.R. 36, said that would be "a loophole big enough for a Mack truck."

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Congressman Smith said the bill will come to the floor shortly. "The commitment to this bill is ironclad; we just have to work out some details," Smith said.

He also noted that, while a vote on the 20-week ban has been delayed for nearly three months, "we did get the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act passed, and that would have been in the queue now, so we just reversed" the order of the two bills.

Congressman Smith spoke to both outlets shortly after participating in a panel at the Summit.

Another speaker was Rep. Steve King, R-IA, who also supports the 20-week ban.

"I can't think of what” language that is actively under consideration could make him rethink his support for the bill, King said. He also told attendees that the nation was moving in a direction of supporting life.

The outspoken Congressman declined to answer further, noting "that's asking me to anticipate an unknown hypothetical."

The annual Campaign for Life Summit and its related gala drew other high-profile speakers, including presidential candidate Senator Rand Paul, potential presidential hopeful Senator Lindsay Graham, and Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus.  

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"Someone who doesn’t flinch at the dismemberment of babies is not going to flinch at the dismemberment of some evangelical baker’s conscience."
Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon

Pro-lifers are winning. So now they’re coming for our cupcakes?

Jonathon van Maren Jonathon van Maren Follow Jonathon
By Jonathon van Maren

As I travel across Canada (and at times the United States) speaking on abortion and various facets of the Culture of Death, one of the things I hear often is a hopelessness, a despair that the West is being flattened by the juggernaut of the Sexual Revolution. There is a feeling among many people that the restriction of religious liberty, the continued legality of abortion, and the redefinition of marriage are inevitable.

This is, of course, one of the most prominent and successful strategies of the Sexual Revolutionaries—create an aura of inevitability while concurrently demonizing all those who oppose their new and mangled “progress” as Neanderthals on the cusp of being left behind by History. That inevitability becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy, because many people don’t realize that the various battles in the Sexual Revolution actually all correlate to one another—that what we are seeing now is the end game of an incredibly vast and well-planned cultural project.

It is because we miss many of these connections that we often cannot see, with clarity, how the culture wars are actually unfolding. I read with great interest a recent column by Rev. Douglas Wilson, eloquently titled “With stirrups raised to Molech.”

“We are now much occupied with the issues swirling around same sex mirage,” he writes, “but we need to take great care not to get distracted. Why have the homosexual activists gone all in on this issue? Why is their prosecutorial zeal so adamant? We went, in just a matter of months, from ‘let’s let individual states’ decide on this, to federal judges striking down state statutes, followed up hard by official harassment of florists, bakers, and photographers. Why the anger, and why the savage over-reach? And do they really think we couldn’t remember all the things they were assuring us of this time last year?”

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It’s a compelling question, and one that I’ve heard many Christians puzzling over recently. Why do the advocates of the Sexual Revolution despise those who disagree with them so viciously? It is partly because their cultural project does not, as they claim, consist of “living and let live.” It is about compulsory acceptance of any and all sexual behaviors, with tax-payer funding for the rubbers and pills they need to ensure all such behaviors remain sterile, and extermination crews to suction, poison, and dismember any inconvenient fetuses that may come into being as the result of casual coitus.

The ancient mantra “the State has no business in the bedrooms of the nation” has long been abandoned—the emboldened Sexual Revolutionaries now demand that politicians show up at their exhibitionist parades of public indecency, force schools to impose their so-called “morally neutral” view of sexuality on children, and force into silence those who still hold to traditional values.

Rev. Wilson, however, thinks that this loud and vicious war on conscience may be about even more than that. The pro-life cause, he notes, has been very successful in the Unites States. The abortion rate is the lowest it has been since 1973. Hundreds of pro-life laws are passing on the state level. The abortion industry has been successfully stigmatized. True, the successes are, for pro-lifers, often too feeble and not nearly adequate enough in the face of such unrestrained bloodshed. Nevertheless, the momentum has turned against the Sexual Revolutionaries who have championed abortion for decades—their shock and anger at the strength of the pro-life movement evident in pro-abortion signs at rallies that read, “I can’t believe I still have to protest this s**t.”

It is because of the pro-life movement’s success, Wilson muses, that the Sexual Revolutionaries may be coming at us with such fury. “If a nation has slaughtered 50 million infants,” he writes, “they are not going to suddenly get a sense of decency over you and your cupcakes. Now this explains their lack of proportion, and their refusal to acknowledge the rights of florists. Someone who doesn’t flinch at the dismemberment of babies is not going to flinch at the dismemberment of some evangelical baker’s conscience. This reveals their distorted priorities, of course, but it also might be revealing a strategy. Is the homosexual lobby doing this because they are freaking out over their losses on the pro-life front? And are they doing so in a way intended to distract us away from an issue where we are slowly, gradually, inexorably, winning?”

It’s a fascinating perspective. It’s true—and has always been true historically—that when one group of human beings is classified as nonhuman by a society as nonhuman and subsequently butchered, the whole of society is degraded. No nation and no culture can collectively and systematically kill so many human beings without a correlating hardening of the conscience. But on the pro-life front, there has been decades of fierce resistance, hundreds of incremental victories, and a renewed energy among the upcoming generation of activists. For the Sexual Revolutionaries who thought the battle was over when Roe v. Wade was announced in 1973, this must be a bitter pill to swallow indeed.

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Lisa Bourne

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‘Prominent’ Catholics attacking Archbishop Cordileone are big donors to Pelosi and pro-abort Democrats

Lisa Bourne
By Lisa Bourne

Note: To sign a petition supporting Archbishop Cordileone, click here

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, April 17, 2015 (LifeSiteNews.com) -- Big donors to the Democrat Party and pro-abortion Nancy Pelosi are among those publicly harassing San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone for protecting Catholic identity in the area’s Catholic high schools.

A big-ticket full-page ad ran April 16 in the San Francisco Chronicle attacking the archbishop and calling Pope Francis to oust him for his efforts to reinforce Catholic principles in the schools.

A number of prominent San Francisco-area residents identifying as Catholic are signatories of the ad, and several are wealthy donors to Democrat entities and pro-abortion politicians, Catholic Vote reports.

Federal Election Commission records indicate Charles Geschke, Adobe Systems chairman and previous head of the Board of Trustees at the University of San Francisco, gave more than $240,000 to Democrat groups, as well as $2,300 to Nancy Pelosi and $4,000 to John Kerry, both politicians who claim to be Catholic but support abortion and homosexual “marriage.”

Also on the list is political consultant and businessman Clint Reilly, who gave nearly $60,000 to Democrat organizations, along with $5,000 to Barack Obama, whose administration vehemently promotes abortion and homosexual “marriage” and has continually opposed religious liberty. Reilly gave $4,600 to Pelosi as well.

Another individual in the ad attacking the archbishop who also gave big campaign donations to California pro-abort Democrats was Lou Giraudo, a former city commissioner and business executive who contributed more than $24,000 to Nancy Pelosi, $6,000 to Dianne Feinstein and $4,300 to Barbara Boxer.

Nancy Pelosi herself challenged the archbishop for his stance on Catholic teaching last year when she tried to pressure him out of speaking at the March for Marriage in Washington D.C., claiming the event was “venom masquerading as virtue.”

The archbishop responded in a letter that he was obliged “as a bishop, to proclaim the truth—the whole truth—about the human person and God’s will for our flourishing ... especially the truth about marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.”

The April 16 ad attacking Archbishop Cordileone was the latest in an ongoing assault since the archbishop took steps in February to strengthen Catholic identity in the schools and clarify for faculty and staff in handbooks and contract language the long-standing expectation that they uphold Church principles. 

It said Archbishop Cordileone has “fostered an atmosphere of division and intolerance” and called on Pope Francis to remove him.

“Holy Father, Please Provide Us With a Leader True to Our Values and Your Namesake,” the ad said. “Please Replace Archbishop Cordileone.”

The Confraternity of Catholic Clergy (CCC), a national association for priests and deacons, condemned Archbishop Cordileone’s harassers in a statement, saying the archbishop “teaches in conformity to the Catechism of the Catholic Church.”

“The character assassination and uncharitable venom being cast upon a bishop merely defending the doctrines of his religion is appalling and repugnant,” the CCC said. 

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“It is totally inappropriate, improper and unjust for the media and others to vilify and brutally attack him when he is doing precisely what an ordained minister and pastor of souls is obligated to do,” the group stated, “namely, speak the truth in season and out of season.”

Those behind the attack ad said the proposed handbook language was mean-spirited, and that they were “committed Catholics inspired by Vatican II,” who “believe in the traditions of conscience, respect and inclusion upon which our Catholic faith was founded.”

The Archdiocese of San Francisco denounced the ad upon its release, saying it was a misrepresentation of Catholic teaching and the nature of the teacher contract, and a misrepresentation of the spirit of the Archbishop.

“The greatest misrepresentation of all is that the signers presume to speak for “the Catholic Community of San Francisco,” the archdiocese responded. “They do not.”

The CCC pointed out that just as physicians are expected to be faithful to the Hippocratic Oath, bishops, priests, and deacons are expected to be faithful to the Church, its teachings and its authority, “since their objective is the salvation of souls, not a popularity contest.” 

In openly declaring their support for Archbishop Cordileone, the group urged the media and others to show “prudence, civility, and fair-mindedness” toward those with whom they disagree.

“He took an oath to be faithful to the Gospel,” the Confraternity stated of Archbishop Cordileone, “and in the words of the disciples in the New Testament, ‘better to obey God than men.’”

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