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Irish government plans frontal assault on confessional secrecy

July 15, 2011

Irish government leaders have insisted that they will not allow the secrecy of the confessional to limit the scope of new legislation that would require reporting of all complaints of child abuse.

“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," said children’s minister Frances Fitzgerald. Quickly dismissing the sanctity of the confessional, which has been recognized by governments for centuries, Fitzgerald said: "I'm not concerned--neither is the government,--bout the internal laws, the rules governing any body.”

“The law of the land should not be stopped by a crozier or a collar,” Prime Minister Enda Kenny said.

Ian Elliott, the head of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, disagreed. While welcoming the legislation in principle, Elliott said that they was no need to challenge the confessional seal. “To break it would antagonize relationships,” he warned, and the Catholic Church would certainly fight against passage of the legislation as it stands.

“The Catholic Church and the State are on a collision course” on the question, the Irish Times reported, saying that the legislation as it is framed “is likely to encounter significant resistance within the church.” That is an understatement. Since the Catholic Church requires priests to maintain absolute secrecy about what they hear in sacramental confessions, all priests would face a moral obligation to defy the law.

Thus if the sweeping legislation becomes law, Ireland could see a return of the days in which a priest could face imprisonment for the “crime” of acting as a Catholic priest.


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  • Posted by: fred3885 - Jul. 18, 2011 3:26 AM ET USA

    Will this law be enforced against lawyers too? Will the "law of the land" be stopped by the robe and wig of a lawyer? Or will lawyers also be forced to reveal which of their clients are guilty of child abuse? Or does the "law of the land" have double standards? This is a clear case of riding the prevailing public emotions to destroy the Church. If you are against a law like this you'll be labeled a friend of child abusers. If this goes through, it is the start of a new era of persecutions.

  • Posted by: garedawg - Jul. 16, 2011 1:29 AM ET USA

    So if the priests do a good job of maintaining the seal of confession, who's going to find out?

  • Posted by: - Jul. 15, 2011 9:59 PM ET USA

    How many Irish died for the faith over the years? Because the English repeatedly tried to make it illegal to be Catholic. Now, perhaps, the Irish will do the job themselves...

  • Posted by: - Jul. 15, 2011 8:30 PM ET USA

    This is breathtaking.Within the space of 30 years Ireland has fallen from a Catholic Country to a viciously Anti-Catholic Country. And we can be sure that what vile policies the feminists foist on Ireland today they will foist on us tomorrow.

  • Posted by: JARay - Jul. 15, 2011 6:29 PM ET USA

    This is a disgrace. It shows just how far the once faithful Church in Ireland has dropped into the mire of secularism.