The membership of the Australian Confraternity of Catholic Clergy has voiced its profound objection to the laws passed in the Australian Capital Territory, South Australian and Tasmanian legislatures requiring priests to break the seal of confession.
Australian Confraternity of Catholic Clergy (ACCC) chairman and Brisbane priest Father Scot Armstrong recently released a statement on behalf of the ACCC citing that “Catholics profess that Christ instituted the Sacrament of Penance for the forgiveness of sins committed since baptism – ordinarily, absolution may be granted only after an integral auricular confession”.
“This is not merely a matter of canon law, but of Divine Law, from which the Church has no power to dispense. No priest is bound to keep any human law that attempts to undermine the absolute confidentiality of confession,” he said.
Fr Armstrong said the nature of the implemented law has been ill-judged and has an inadequate understanding of the Sacrament.
“The notion that a culture of concealment motivates priests to maintain a veil of secrecy over what transpires in the Sacrament of Penance misreads both the real motivation of priests and the practicalities of confession,” Fr Armstrong added.
“If, for example, the penitent confesses from behind a screen, how can the confessor know for certain who is confessing? Or, how can the penitent be certain the confessing priest is who he or she thinks he is? Or, how will a conviction beyond reasonable doubt be secured except by police entrapment? Since penitents do not need to specify (beyond kind and number) the details of their sins [such as place, time, names etc], the information would be too vague to incriminate anyone in any case.”
In a recent article published by the Australasian Catholic Record, Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher OP echoed similar sentiments when he raised his concerns over the new law, he said: “breaking the seal would not serve to protect a single child, rather it would help to ensure that such matters were never raised in confession”.
Courtesy CathNews and The Catholic Leader