An Australian archbishop’s dangerous approach to defending the confessional seal

By Phil Lawler ( bio - articles - email ) | Jun 11, 2018

Calling for reconsideration of the appalling legislation that would call upon priests to break the confessional seal, Archbishop Christopher Prowse of Canberra writes: “Priests are bound by a sacred vow to maintain the seal of confession.”

Wait. That’s wrong— perhaps even dangerously wrong.

A priest does not take any special vow that governs how he hears confessions. The seal is inherent in the nature of the sacrament; it does not depend on any decision made by a priest or his bishop. The requirement to maintain the secrecy of a penitent’s confession is absolute; it cannot and will not change.

By suggesting that the confessional seal is the product of a vow that priests choose to take, Archbishop Prowse regrettably lends credence to the belief that the Church could make a different decision, change policy, and allow priests to reveal some sins.

Australian lawmakers evidently believe that the Catholic Church can and should change policies regarding the absolute nature of the confessional seal. Archbishop Prowse argues effectively that on this issue, the Church should not be forced to change. The more relevant point is that on this issue, the Church cannot change.

Phil Lawler has been a Catholic journalist for more than 30 years. He has edited several Catholic magazines and written eight books. Founder of Catholic World News, he is the news director and lead analyst at CatholicCulture.org. See full bio.

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