• Foundations of Truth

Preserve the Sanctity of Confession



Nothing is more sacred than someone’s religion. While it may be unfathomable to a secularist, the religion of a faithful believer is based on an unshakeable belief that the fate of one’s existence depends on their theology.


For a Catholic, the quality of their faith partially depends on the confession of sins, especially “mortal” ones, so they can unburden their souls. [1] Although the Catholic practice of confession is rejected by protestants, reformed versions of this idea can be found in many Christian churches based on James 5:16, which teaches, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.”


The sacred and discrete nature of confession in the Catholic religion has existed since 1215 AD when Canon 21 decreed:


“Let the priest absolutely beware that he does not by word or sign or by any manner whatever in any way betray the sinner: but if he should happen to need wiser counsel let him cautiously seek the same without any mention of person. For whoever shall dare to reveal a sin disclosed to him in the tribunal of penance we decree that he shall be not only deposed from the priestly office but that he shall also be sent into the confinement of a monastery to do perpetual penance.” [2]


In short, Catholic priests cannot disclose anything that is confessed to them. This “Law of the Seal of Confession” is mean to allow Catholics the safety to confess and repent for the heinous sins they have committed so they will experience God’s mercy and forgiveness.


Much like attorney-client privilege, this assurance of secrecy is absolutely necessary to achieve the purpose of confession, which is to allow Catholics to unburden their souls. Otherwise, no one would confess their worst sins to the priest. This practice is not unique to the Roman Catholic Church; variations of it can also be found in almost every denominational branch of Protestantism with similar rules of secrecy.


Unfortunately, this integral component of faith has come under attack as an Australian governmental commission demanded in 2018 that “laws concerning mandatory reporting to child protection authorities should not exempt persons in religious ministry from being required to report knowledge or suspicions formed, in whole or in part, on the basis of information disclosed in or in connection with a religious confession.” [3]


The French government is now continuing this trend by adopting similar recommendations. It will not be long before such demands become the new norm. [4]


Although the United States currently protects religious liberty through the First Amendment and robust case precedent intended to preserve the free exercise of religion, these demands are certainly headed for the United States.


Although the reasoning of the Australian and French governments makes intuitive sense, the result of implementing their recommendations would be the steady creep of government interference into the confession booth for all crimes, no matter how petty. This will affect all Christian denominations that practice any variation of confession and will make it legally permissible for the government to exercise its influence over matters of the human soul that it has no authority to touch.


This is the line in the sand; once it is crossed for this “exception,” the authorities will be tempted to cross it again and again as they slowly ebb away whatever sanctity remains. If even one crime is taken to the police, then it will destroy the sacred idea that confessing one’s sins to God can be kept solely between a parishioner and their priest/pastor.


Luke 16:10 wisely states: “Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much...” The inverse of this is also true, “Whoever cannot be trusted with very little, cannot be trusted with very much.” Similarly, if those who are most in need of confessing their sins cannot trust their priest or their pastor with their greatest sins, then they will not feel safe to confess their smallest ones, either.


Without being assured of the priest or pastor’s absolute discretion, the purpose of confession ceases to exist because no one in their right mind will ever again confess their sins.


Foundations of Truth hereby waives all claim of copyright (economic and moral) in this work and immediately places it in the public domain; it may be used, published, edited, and distributed in any manner whatsoever without any attribution or notice to Foundations of Truth.

 

[1] “WHAT IS THE SACRAMENT OF CONFESSION,” CatholicsComeHome (n.d.), https://www.catholicscomehome.org/your-questions/what-is-the-sacrament-of-confession/

[2] “The Law of the Seal of Confession,” NewAdvent.org (n.d.), https://www.newadvent.org/cathen/13649b.htm

[3] “Final Report Recommendations,” Child Abuse Royal Commission (2018), https://www.childabuseroyalcommission.gov.au/sites/default/files/final_report_-_recommendations.pdf

[4] “France summons archbishop over 'confession above law' stance,” Times of Malta (October 7, 2021), https://timesofmalta.com/articles/view/france-summons-archbishop-over-confession-above-law-stance.906295

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