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Australian priest "hears confessions" on call-in radio February 04, 2005

A controversial Australian priest "heard confessions" on a call-in radio show on Sunday night.

The Melbourne Herald-Sun reported that during an appearance on a youth talk show, Father Bob Maguire agreed to hear the confessions of callers. Three listeners did call in, confessing their sins on the air, and received a token penance from the priest, the newspaper reported.

The vicar general of the Melbourne archdiocese, Msgr. Les Tomlinson, told the Herald-Sun that the radio conversations were not sacramental confessions, because Father Maguire did not use the required words of absolution. He also pointed out that the Church does not allow confession by radio or telephone. Thus the sins of the call-in penitents were not forgiven.

However, Msgr. Tomlinson observed that hearing confessions over the radio violates the Church's norms requiring priests to preserve the secrecy of the penitents. Violations of the confessional seal can bring severe punishment, including excommunication. It was not clear whether Father Maguire could be subject to such disciplinary action, since he was not hearing real confessions. However, making a mockery of the sacraments can also bring severe punishment.

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