Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Irish cabinet minister: priests should violate seal of confessional to report abuse

Catholic World News - April 26, 2012

Priests who hear confessions will not be exempt from the mandatory reporting of sexual abuse against children, according to Ireland’s justice minister.

Commenting on proposed legislation, Alan Shatter said that “I would expect that if there was someone going to confession who was a serial sex abuser, I don't know how anyone could live with their conscience if they didn't refer that to the gardai [police].”

“As someone who doesn't frequent confession, I don't know what information people share in confessions,” Shatter said, adding that 1998 legislation that mandates the report of murder, kidnapping, and bank robberies does not have an exemption for priests who hear confessions.

A bishop and a dissenting priests’ organization were united in condemning Shatter’s remarks.

“The seal of the confessional is inviolable as far as I am concerned, and that's the end of the matter,” said Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Field of Dublin.

“I certainly wouldn't be willing to break the seal of confession for anyone--Alan Shatter particularly,” added Father Sean McDonagh of the Association of Catholic Priests.

In a subsequent statement, Ireland’s justice department said that the legislation does not directly address the seal of the confessional.

“The extent to which the privilege can be relied on in a criminal case is unclear,” the department stated.

Additional sources for this story
Some links will take you to other sites, in a new window.

An appeal from our founder, Dr. Jeffrey Mirus:

Dear reader: If you found the information on this page helpful in your pursuit of a better Catholic life, please support our work with a donation. Your donation will help us reach seven million Truth-seeking readers worldwide this year. Thank you!

Progress toward our September expenses ($33,239 to go):
$35,000.00 $1,761.25
95% 5%
Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 2 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: CBB - Apr. 27, 2012 4:25 AM ET USA

    I am not sure, not having studied the sacrament of reconciliation in detail, but my understanding is that before absolution would be given by a priest hearing someone's confession of serious sin involving criminal or potentially criminal offences that there is a expectation encouraged strongly by the priest that the person show their true sorrow for the sin by reporting themselves to the authorities that are relevant. Is this the case?

  • Posted by: ColmCille - Apr. 26, 2012 7:41 PM ET USA

    That really tells you something when even dissenting priests wont violate the seal of confession. Historically such violations have been so rare as to be virtually nonexistent. What some don't get is that souls are at stake. If priests start breaking the seal, people will stop confessing their sins. Not that secularists care, or even believe in sin. In truth, it's hard to see how a priest could live with himself if he broke the seal

Subscribe for free
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Recent Catholic Commentary

Liberal visions of Catholicism: Kickstarter and the world's largest NGO September 1
The Blessed Book of Beasts August 30
Weekend reading August 29
Frustrating the Moral Law August 29
Weep for slaughtered Christians, not for dialogue with Islam August 29

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
‘A real via crucis’: Pope Francis, patriarch plead on behalf of Iraq’s Christians CWN - August 8
Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi Christians in flight as Islamic State advances CWN - August 8