Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Confessors cannot report pedophile priests, Vatican official notes

Catholic World News - March 18, 2010

If a priest admits to abuse of children during a sacramental confession, the confessor cannot report that abuse to legal authorities, a Vatican official has reminded readers of the Vatican newspaper.

In an interview with L'Osservatore Romano, Bishop Gianfranco Girotti, an official of the Apostolic Penitentiary, emphasized that the seal of confession is absolute. The confessor can take no action based on the penitent's revelations, nor reveal the sins that have been confessed to anyone. "The only possible outcome of confession is absolution," the bishop said.

The confessional seal has not often been an issue in the sex-abuse scandals that have come to the fore in public discussions. The criticism of Catholic bishops for mishandling abusive priests has centered on cases in which the revelations of abuse came outside the confessional-- either through complaints from victims or through admissions made by priests in administrative interviews.

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 five million Truth-seeking readers worldwide this year. Thank you!

Progress toward our April expenses ($18,914 to go):
$35,000.00 $16,086.48
54% 46%
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 5 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: jeremiahjj - Mar. 18, 2010 11:52 PM ET USA

    This is as it should be, but it seems to me the confessor could require the penitent to seek treatment as a condition of absolution. No treatment, the penance isn't fulfilled. Penance not fulfilled, the absolution is invalid.

  • Posted by: TreeRing - Mar. 18, 2010 7:18 PM ET USA

    This is true, but a confessor could assign a penance of admitting the abuse to legal authorities, or retiring from public ministry, etc.

  • Posted by: Minnesota Mary - Mar. 18, 2010 6:02 PM ET USA

    That's right--a confession of pedophile sexual abuse by a priest going to confession cannot be divulged. However, the penance for such a confession should be for the priest to turn himself in to the authorities if he is truly sorry for his sins.

  • Posted by: Gil125 - Mar. 18, 2010 2:18 PM ET USA

    Strange one. Why would it be necessary to say this? Is the Sacrament of Reconciliation such a dead letter that any Catholic wouldn't know it automatically?

  • Posted by: skladach - Mar. 18, 2010 11:38 AM ET USA

    While I was at college a fellow student I had met at the Newman Center murdered his girlfriend in a crime of passion. From the crime scene he went directly to Confession. For his penance, the priest told him to turn himself in to the police, which he did willingly. Absolution is not "the only possible outcome". Firm desire of amendment and restitution are part of the Sacrament, too.

Subscribe for free
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Recent Catholic Commentary

Smaller Church, Bigger Faith, 3: Ecclesiastical Discipline April 17
The Holy Spirit and Evangelization: A Primer April 16
Journey to the Sun: A Strange Biography of Junípero Serra April 16
Russia's demographic recovery + US demographic decline = danger April 16
James Carroll strikes (at the Church) again April 16

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
Pope Francis's Easter Message 'Urbi et Orbi' (To the City and the World): full text, link to video CWN - 16 hours ago
Pope Francis: Easter Vigil homily (full text) CWN - 17 hours ago