Irish government seeks to compel priests to break seal of confessional

 From The Catholic Herald.

By Michael Kellyon Monday, 18 July 2011

Enda Kenny, Ireland’s prime minister, has said that canon law should not supersede state law (Julien Behal/PA Wire)

The group that represents Ireland’s Catholic priests has said the secrecy of confession must be protected despite government indications that confessions would not be exempt from rules on mandatory reporting of child abuse.

Irish Children’s Minister Frances Fitzgerald said: “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.”

Fr PJ Madden, spokesman for the Association of Catholic Priests, insisted that the sacramental seal of confession is “above and beyond all else” and should not be broken even if a penitent confesses to a crime.

Fr Madden said he would strongly urge and appeal to the penitent – whether a priest or anyone else – to confess a crime to the police and have the civil aspect dealt with, but that he did not approve of the idea of reporting what was said.

“If I’m breaking the law then somebody has to find a way to address that for me … but in my own right as a priest what I understand is the seal of confession is above and beyond all else,” he said.

“The seal of confession is a very sacred seal for lots of different reasons way beyond this one single issue, however serious this one single issue is,” Fr Madden said.

The Irish government said it would introduce legislation that makes it mandatory for priests to reveal details of child abuse, even if they become known in the confessional. The offence is punishable with up to five years in prison.

The announcement came after a judicial commission investigating the Diocese of Cloyne revealed that allegations of abuse were being mishandled and withheld from the police as recently as 2008.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny said last week that canon law would not be allowed to supersede state law.

Ms Fitzgerald, meanwhile, said the government was not concerned about “the rules governing any body”.

“This is about the law of the land. It’s about child protection. Are we saying … if a child is at risk of child sexual abuse that should not be reported? We cannot say that. The law of the land is clear and unambiguous,” she said.

Bishop John McAreavey of Dromore told the American Catholic News Service that the bishops would await the publication of the legislation before assessing it. However, he said, he felt it was “unreal to suggest that the seal of confession has prevented the reporting of the abuse of children”.

The new legislation is not expected to be published this autumn, and sources close to the Irish bishops’ conference expected that a heavy lobbying campaign would get under way to ensure that a suitable exemption is considered.

David Quinn, director of the think-tank the Iona Institute, called the proposal “unprecedented”.

“This would make us the one and only country in the Western world to have such a law. Even revolutionary France in the days of its worst violence against the Church did not pass a law requiring the breaking of the seal of confession,” Mr Quinn told Catholic News Service.

He said the government “is clearly missing something that every other government can see, which is that, at a minimum, such a law is very unlikely to lead to a single conviction and, at a maximum, will be counter-productive and will make society less safe, rather than more safe.”

“No child abuser will go to a priest in confession knowing the priest is required to inform the police. But cutting off the avenue of confession to a child abuser makes it less likely that he will talk to someone who can persuade him to take the next step,” he added.

Update 19/7/11 (Catholic News Service)

A confessional like those used in Catholic parishes. Credit: Paul Lowry
Dublin, Ireland, Jul 18, 2011 / 08:03 pm (CNA).- Catholic priests in Ireland are prepared to “strongly” resist a proposed law that would require them to disclose information learned in confession.

“More than any other issue, it is probably the one that will unite both the liberal and conservative wings of the Church,” said Father Tony Flannery, a priest with the Association of Catholic Priests, in a July 18 e-mail to CNA.

“If even one exception was made to the seal of Confession, then the whole Sacrament would collapse,” he stated. “The truth of faith that this Sacrament is meant to convey is central to Christian teaching.”

The legislation, proposed by Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny, would put priests in jail for up to five years if they failed to tell authorities about sexual abuse crimes disclosed during confession.

Fr. Flannery said that the Association of Catholic Priests has not taken the proposed law very seriously, because it is simply not “workable.”

“When a person confesses in the confessional box, the priest would not normally know who they are, or indeed be able to see them,” he explained. “So how is he to report them?”

It is also “unlikely” that a person involved in abuse would go to confession, Fr. Flannery pointed out.

“In my forty years of priesthood, I don’t ever remember someone confessing that they were currently abusing someone,” he said.

He noted that the prime minister’s bill also fails to address implications for other professions, and things that are said in other privileged situations of confidentiality.

It also opens the door for other crimes becoming exceptions, requiring further breaches of the confessional seal.

“Why make this one the only crime to be reported?” Fr. Flannery wondered.

The priest contends the proposed law is a “total over-reaction” to the recently released Cloyne Report, a study that found the Diocese of Cloyne failed to report nine cases of sexual abuse between the years 1996 and 2005.

Fr. Flannery predicted lawmakers would be “more calm and reasoned about all this” after a few months have passed.

But he made clear that “if this does come to law – which I do not expect – priests will resist it strongly.”


Update: 25/07/11

From a Canon Lawyer:

A note on proposals to require priests to violate the seal of confession


Concerning recent Irish and Australian proposals to require priests who, through their ministry in sacramental confession, learn the identity of child sexual abusers (or of any other malefactors, for that matter), to disclose such information to civil authorities, I have little to say because, well, because there is little to say, canonically, at any rate. Such proposals, even if they become law, will have absolutely no effect on a priest’s obligation to preserve the seal of confession. Absolutely none.

The seal of confession is a not creature of civil law, rather, it rests on divine law and is articulated by canon law (see cc. 983 and 1388). Because the state has no authority over the seal of confession, it can exercise no authority over the seal by way imposing, regulating, or revoking it, in whole or even in part.

What states can do, and indeed what enlightened states in fact do, is to accommodate the seal of confession within theirs laws (typically, in their laws of criminal evidence procedure). The benefits to states making such accommodations are many, and the “benefits” of disregarding the seal can be shown, upon a few moments’ consideration, to be nugatory, but such prudential points are better made by others. I speak only as a canonist, and I write only to say that any civil laws attempting to break the seal of confession would have no force whatsoever against the sanctity of the seal of confession.

About Gertrude

Sáncte Míchael Archángele, defénde nos in proélio, cóntra nequítiam et insídias diáboli ésto præsídium.
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73 Responses to Irish government seeks to compel priests to break seal of confessional

  1. Srdc says:

    This is insane. People confess a lot of things that could be against the law, should they all be reported to the police. A confessional seal cannot be broken even if the priest is threatened with death.


  2. Gertrude says:

    Absolutely Srdc. The Catechism of the Church states:

    Given the delicacy and greatness of this ministry and the respect due to persons, the Church declares that every priest who hears confessions is bound under very severe penalties to keep absolute secrecy regarding the sins that his penitents have confessed to him. He can make no use of knowledge that confession gives him about penitants’ lives. This secrecy which admits of no exceptions, is called the ‘sacramental seal’, because what the penitent has made known to the priest remains ‘sealed’ by the sacrament. (CCC1490)

    I cannot imagine a single priest in the world who would break this sacramental seal. Our forefathers died to preserve these tenets of our Faith.


  3. Regina says:

    And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. — Matthew 16:18


  4. toadspittle says:

    What the Irish Government is saying is perfectly reasonable.

    If any citizen knows the perpetrator of a crime, it is his or her civic and legal duty to inform the authorities of it. That goes for anyone. If anyone claims exemption on relgious grounds, they are as guilty as the criminal in obstructing justice.
    In reality, it is a matter of conscience.
    If people put their perceived duty to God abve their respect for the law, that’s their affair, and they may be required to pay the price for their silence. Which. as priests in this particular case, they will, no doubt, willingly do, however high it is. Very chic, martyrdom.

    But the Government is not, in this case at least, insane. And this is not yet another example of a vicious, atheist attack on the Church.
    Which is how it will be inevitably seen.

    What is the Government supposed to say? That it’s perfectly all right for some people to shield criminals?


  5. toadspittle says:

    Toad wonders if a priest having heard confession of a crime, is entitled to say, “Unless you promise to give yourself up to the police on leaving here, I will not give you absolution.”?


  6. Gertrude says:

    My understanding has always been that without true repentance there is no Absolution. If someone has commited a truly awful crime, goes to Confession, then one would assume repentance. If there was true repentance, having been before Almighty God, then I would hope their next step would be amendment – which would mean the civil authorities. The Priest would undoubtedly counsel this. As David Quinn says in the above, the seal of the sacrament would be the stepping stone to true repentance, as a Catholic with a burden of guilt would make their first priority availing themselves of this sacrament.
    At least, I would and I hope they would. But no Toad. The seal cannot be broken whatever law man might make.


  7. manus says:


    How would that differ for the conversation between lawyers and their (criminal) clients, or doctors, or other professional counsellors? There has long been been a understanding that confidential counsel is a public good which inevitably comes up against the duty to report serious illegal activity. These sort of rows are always likely, especially arising out of blatant cases of abuse.

    A similar example on the other end of the cultural scale is the duty of abortion councellors to report cases of rape or child abuse. Similar appeals for the need to respect confidentialty are made. In the US, Planned Parenthood is being embarrassed by such cases.

    It would presumably be a significant development if ‘professional’ services would continue to be exempt, while ‘religious’ counsel was required to be accountable to, say, the police.

    The CCC talks of the need for ‘satisfaction’ [1459 – 60]: ‘ One must do what is possible in order to repair the harm … simple justice requires as much’. Alas, I have limited experience on either side of the curtain regarding illegal activities (well, that I’m prepared to admit to here, anyway). Perhaps there’s a confessor reading this blog who would care to comment?


  8. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    I have no catechism to hand, but I remember a section which says that catholics must obey the law of the land.

    Given the arguments above, the following is clear to me.

    The Irish government says concealing crimes known from the confessional is illegal.
    Catholics say confessional secrecy will not be broken.
    Therefore priests will go to prison or cease to hear confessions.
    So, eventually, confession will not exist in Ireland as it does elsewhere.
    If catholicism survives there, then it will no longer mean “universal”.

    In Ireland, of all places.

    This is all the result of institutional criminality and cover up, secrecy, evasion and denial. “Suffer the little children…” – and they have. If abusers are protected by anyone, “Better that a millstone be tied round their necks etc”…

    Everyone is responsible for this, by not speaking out, by suppressing comment, by a collective refusal to admit that this was possible. Protesting against this law is part of the denial, and favours dogma over abuse.


  9. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    I am reminded somewhat of the crisis for the English catholic church when Beckett told King Henry that the clerics would not be subject to anything but an ecclesiastical court.

    And we know what happened to him.

    And I note that regina compares the Irish Government to “the nether world”.

    With friends like regina, the church doesn’t need enemies.


  10. toadspittle says:


    How would that differ for the conversation between lawyers and their (criminal) clients, or doctors, or other professional counsellors?

    Manus asks.

    Well if a lawyer’s client admits to him that he (or she) is guilty, the lawyer cannot plead his client’s innocence. And, if a patient tells a doctor he has just murdered someone, what is the doctor to do?
    As to the other professional councellors Toad would lñike toknow who, before commenting..

    Toad then asks his friends on CP&S two questions: What would they do, in these circumstances, if they were:

    1: A member of the current Irish Government

    2: A priest hearing the confession of a child molester?

    Come to that how would a priest feel if he absolved a child molester and maintained silence about it, only to find the molester gone right out and done it again?
    And would the priest be guilty of a sin of ommission?

    Doh! That’s four questions. Good topic. Thinks Toad.


  11. toadspittle says:


    (Nothing to do with the above, but the reason Toad lets so many typing errors in (for which he is sorry) is that the original typeface, in which we write, is virtually unreadable to him as his minces are decaying as fast as his brain.
    Also, that there is no edit facility to fix stuff when he can actually see the finished article.)


  12. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    I hope others respond to Toad’s 2-4 questions. For my response, I won’t repeat what I’ve said above.

    I agree with Toad’s comments on typos; I have never made so many irreparable mistakes in posting elsewhere as I have on CPS. Toad suggests that this is due to decaying brains, but I’m nnto. ‘aving thta – d’you hriea thnnnn X Skeap fro yrslnf.


  13. golden chersonnese says:

    If any citizen knows the perpetrator of a crime, it is his or her civic and legal duty to inform the authorities of it. That goes for anyone., counsels Toad.

    As far as I know, toad, you couldn’t be wronger.


  14. kathleen says:

    As Manus has said, it would indeed be interesting to hear a Catholic priest’s views on this unprecedented law.

    My opinion – and in answer to Toad’s question – I would definitely agree that anyone comitting such a serious sin would probably not be truly repentent unless he was willing to give himself up to the lawful authorities, whatever the result might be. (Most likely imprisonment.) Absolution could therefore be withheld unless this condition was promised. If the promise was broken, then the Confession would be invalid.


  15. kathleen says:

    I’m pretty sure that the same applies to other sins.
    If someone with stolen goods goes to Confession to confess the sin of thievery, he would presumably be told to return the goods before being given absolution.
    The same would apply to other sins, like violence, adultery or fornication etc.: unless the person was prepared to give up the sin, (IOW having a firm purpose of amendment) there would be no true repentance.

    But in no way do I think a priest would be comitting the sin of omission in the unlikely case of a child molester – who has taken the giant step of going to the sacrament to confess this horrendous evil – reverting to his crimes. The priest is first and foremost answerable to his bishop and the Catholic Church, not the Government.

    As Jesus Himself said: “Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, and unto God that which is of God.”


  16. golden chersonnese says:

    Toad, where do you get the idea that not reporting a crime is an offence? Please do tell.

    Kathleen, I’m not sure that one throwing himself at the foot of the Throne of Mercy for his or her sins, even egregious ones, will therefore automatically be willing to plead guilty before the beak.

    If that were so, a person confessing cheating on his tax would then go and report himself to the tax man too.


  17. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    So that’s all right then – abuser confesses (probably won’t do it again) , priest remains silent, bishops do nothing or endlessly tranfer the abuser, children continue to be abused.

    No, not my opinion, but recent events. Sorry.

    This all means business as usual, while the church goes down the pan. Heads remain firmly stuck in the sand, deckchairs are rearranged on the sinking Titanic.

    What is not understood is that the priest will soon be answerable to the law, whatever wishful thinking takes place, whether people like it or not.


  18. manus says:

    This is getting silly.

    The child protection measures now in place are intended to be entirely comprehensive, and are not predicated on breaking the vow of confession. Any such confession would be incidental to such measures, and of course should provoke a profound crisis of conscience in any confessor priest. But what would that have to do with the responsibilities of the bishop, who is not the confessor?

    While the current crisis arises specifically from the child abuse issue, the problem is basic and not a particularly religious one. It’s about the confidentiality of private advice. Toad, irrespective of what a lawyer can or cannot plead, the discussion with the client is priviledged. If the lawyer were required to inform the police of any incriminating admissions directly, the system would collapse immediately. It used to be the case that spouses could not be forced to testify against one another – is that protection still in place?

    It is perfectly understandable that some Irish legislators may wish to introduce such a measure in response to the outrages that have taken place. And the Church will have to suffer the predictably messy consequences if the measure is passed. But sooner or later the balance between privacy and public duty will have to be restored. It is never going to be a comfortable balance.

    Toad: what about a doctor with a patient infected with HIV/AIDs, who refuses to modify their behaviour, therefore putting others at risk (now a criminal matter, I believe). Are they obliged to inform the police, or are they bound by confidentiality?


  19. toadspittle says:

    Toad: what about a doctor with a patient infected with HIV/AIDs, who refuses to modify their behaviour, therefore putting others at risk (now a criminal matter, I believe). Are they obliged to inform the police, or are they bound by confidentiality?
    Excellent question, Manus. Toad has no idea. he’s only a Toad, after all.

    And Golden, if Toad “could not be more wrong”, please tell us what the facts are. Toad thought being “an accessory after the fact”, or “withholding or concealing evidence” or “seeking to pervert the course of justice” were crimes. All would be applicable, would they not?

    In Britain and Ireland anyway.
    But maybe he’s simply wrong again. We will be told. Pronto, no doubt!


  20. Srdc says:

    A Priest can tell the molestor, not to do it again and to report things to the police. If he does not he should be held responsible and not the priest. Passing this law will not ensure that things are reported to the police. It will result in such people not going to confession altogether, for fear of being reported.

    I don’t think confessions can be stopped In Ireland, they will still continue in secret, even if they might be illegal.

    Is the law prepared to put thousands and more people in prison for going to illegal confessions.

    They don’t have that kind of room.


  21. Srdc says:

    “Therefore priests will go to prison or cease to hear confessions.
    So, eventually, confession will not exist in Ireland as it does elsewhere.
    If catholicism survives there, then it will no longer mean “universal”.”

    Confessions do not have to be heard in a church. They can be heard anywhere, as long as you have a priest. Confessions would not cease to exist.


  22. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    So we’re back to hedge priests.
    But you’ve on to something there; the abuser confesses and the priest says turn yourself in. That’ll larn ‘im.

    You couldn’t make it up.


  23. Srdc says:


    If he’s truly repentant that could be part of his penance, to turn himself in.


  24. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Yes it could be part of his penance, a private matter, who really cares – and that pales into insignificance in comparison with getting him off the streets for a bit, a public matter.

    De profundis


  25. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Today the Archbishop of Philadelphia resigned, months after an enquiry found the Church guilty of extensive cover up of abuse.


  26. Srdc says:


    A confessional seal cannot be broken. A priest is not the police. The 21 priests who were suspended in Philadelphia had nothing to do with abuse to begin with. But, I glad to see him go.


  27. golden chersonnese says:

    Toad thought being “an accessory after the fact”, or “withholding or concealing evidence” or “seeking to pervert the course of justice” were crimes. All would be applicable, would they not? In Britain and Ireland anyway.But maybe he’s simply wrong again. We will be told. Pronto, no doubt!

    Toad, get googling!


  28. golden chersonnese says:

    “While English law no longer imposes a duty to report crimes, misprision of felony continues to constitute an offense under the federal criminal code of the United States. (29) The relevant section states:

    Whoever, having knowledge of the actual commission of a felony cognizable by a court of the United States, conceals and does not as soon as possible make known the same to some judge or other person in civil or military authority under the United States, shall be fined not more than $500.00 or imprisoned not more than three years, or both. [emphasis added] (30)

    However, the federal courts have refused to construe the offense as proscribing entirely omissive non-reporting. Relying upon the words “conceals and does not make known,” the courts have held that the offense requires an affirmative act of concealment in addition to non-disclosure of information about the crime.”;content


  29. joyfulpapist says:

    It’s an interesting topic. According to Wikipedia, the priest-penitent privilege is legally recognised in the Republic of Ireland and the US, but not in the UK or Canada. Priests have been tortured and have died in the UK rather than break the seal of confessional – but that was a long time ago.
    Jeremy Bentham, the English jurist, (according to the Wikipedia article) made a strong argument in the early 19th Century for respecting priest-penitent privilege. It went something like this:
    * benefits accrued to society from people repenting of their sins and doing penance for them
    * removing the priest-penitent privilege – if priests took any notice – would prevent people from seeking confession, thereby reducing this benefit to society and giving no replacement benefit
    * the more likely scenario is that society would finish up having to punish priests, who would continue breaking the law anyway – and a law that can’t be enforced is a bad law.

    St Thomas Aquinas argues (among other things) that the priest can’t break the seal of confession, because he is only there as the ears of God, so hasn’t heard what has been said in his own right, anyway. He also makes the balance of benefits argument, and agrees with Bentham that confession, repentence, and renewal are dependent on confidence in the seal of confession.


  30. golden chersonnese says:

    joyful, believing that case law in England did recognise confessional privilege, I was just about to suggest that a Hibernian miscreant could repair to Albion for absolution. Rather like the abortion situation for that matter? Now he will need to go to the US?

    I think there are two matters here, joyful:

    – one, the mandatory reporting of a crime confessed in the confessional &
    – two, the compelling of a priest to testify for the prosecution about a crime confessed in the confessional.

    Or is the distinction unhelpful?


  31. joyfulpapist says:

    Yes, it is a fair distinction. Although the seal of the confessional is the same either way, the distinction does cast a certain amount of light, I think.
    First, mandatory reporting – should a professional, such as a doctor, a lawyer, or priest/minister have to report information given to them under a confidentiality agreement if, by reporting this information, they can prevent further harm? Everyone’s top-of-head response has to be ‘yes’, surely? In practice, though, there are a number of reasons why people don’t report – a perceived lack of evidence, the type of the abuse suspected, length of time in practice, a lack of skills, fear of negative consequences and professional concerns about confidentiality were all mentioned. So would mandatory reporting be a good idea? Northern Ireland commissioned research to see whether mandatory reporting regimes actually worked, and concluded:

    Although the evidence base is limited and it is extremely difficult to isolate the direct impact mandatory reporting legislation has, the available information suggests that mandatory reporting is unlikely lead to improvements in the protection of children and young people. Based on the available evidence, it would seem that a voluntary system of reporting strengthened by interagency protocols and guidance and accompanied by professional training and awareness raising would be the preferred option.

    Second, priests on the witness stand. For that, we have the excellent analysis by Jeremy Bentham that I referred to above.

    So you tell me. Is the greater good served by mandatory reporting, and prosecution of priests who refuse to break the seal of confession, even if the NI analysts are right and mandatory reporting makes no difference to results, and even if Bentham is right and breaking the seal of confession leads to greater social harm?


  32. toadspittle says:

    Well, Golden, it all seems a bit hazy on the “reporting a crime” front, so Toad will gracefully concede, and suggest that, instead of it being someon’s “legal and civic” duty to report a child molester, it might be their duty as a decent human being to do so. .


  33. golden chersonnese says:

    Oh I don’t know, Toad, I think there could be, in some circumstances at least, something to be said for leaving it to victims (or their legal guardians) to report crimes against them.

    Many crimes, for instance, are committed within families and often family members will prefer private reconciliation to calling the rozzers. That wish is something that should be given respect by outsiders, surely?


  34. golden chersonnese says:

    I just noticed, Toad, you referred to “child molesters”, and not to crimes in general. I agree with you in that case.


  35. golden chersonnese says:

    So you tell me. Is the greater good served by mandatory reporting, and prosecution of priests who refuse to break the seal of confession, even if the NI analysts are right and mandatory reporting makes no difference to results, and even if Bentham is right and breaking the seal of confession leads to greater social harm?

    Great points, joyful, on which Toad is no doubt pondering this very minute.


  36. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Above, Toad sez he has “no idea”, reminding me of an anecdote about Roger Alton, a Fleet St editor who would say, ” I don’t have a friggin’ clue, useless I’m afraid. Do you know anything about this stuff, hmmm? Any friggin’ clue, anyone?”.


  37. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Above, Goldy sez “family members will prefer private reconciliation to calling the rozzers”.

    I can imagine the scene, ” Just look what uncle Harry has done to the kids, but let’s all just say sorry and forget about it”.

    That wish is something that should be given respect, of course.


  38. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Joyful and Goldie express a liking for “the excellent analysis” of Jeremy Bentham but don’t mention a few sticky points of his, such as separation of Church and State, equal rights for women, the right to divorce, and importantly, the abolition of physical abuse of children.

    But we all know what happened to Jeremy.


  39. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Joyful and Goldie quote Wikipedia and its reference to ‘UK’ law. I have to tell you that Wikipedia is wrong on its own account, for it refers only to English law. Which means it is not UK law and is horribly inaccurate.

    I wouldnt depend on Wikipedia., for it does not know the difference between England and the UK, which has more than one legal system.


  40. golden chersonnese says:

    Mr Whippy, or should it be Mr Snippy?.

    Both you and Mr Toad seem to be ignoring the fact that I was responding to Toad’s executive order that, if any citizen knows the perpetrator of a (any?) crime, it is his or her civic and legal duty to inform the authorities of it . . . that goes for anyone, not on Toad’s later summary ‘revision’ of his order.

    Toad was supporting the Irish parliament based on his (erroneous?) belief that we all have to report any crime we know about. In fact, up there in his post, that was the only plank in his argument. An opportunity, perhaps, to develop another one, Mr Whippy?


  41. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    I’ll answer to Whippy, Snippy, Grippy or sometimes Lippy.

    Toad you say has only one plank in his argument – but you want him to walk it.
    I think Toad’s clear point was that we cannot continue to cover up crimes. I’m sorry to say that those who wish to maintain the status quo of diminishing or covering up crimes are damaging the church immensely. And there’s quite enough of that going on.

    It’ll all end in tears and I think of ‘into the valley of death rode the six hundred’.


  42. golden chersonnese says:

    No, I didn’t think I had the right to put words into Toad’s mouth, though it seems to be yours. I just left it at responding to what he actually did say, you might not have noticed that.

    Obviously time to change to a near rhyme, Mr Iffy.

    Toad did not mention a cover-up. He even mentioned his typing errors.

    But he did the use word ‘shielding’. And it seems in England anyway, not reporting knowledge of a crime is not ‘regarded’ as ‘shielding a criminal’. I wouldn’t be surprised if that term were actually reserved for people actually actively concealing a miscreant. Well, you never know.


  43. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Sorry Goldie, you stretch your assertion to breaking point; in no way did I put words in Toad’s mouth, but I did say what I thought Toad was saying. “Cover up ” , not being in quotes, is clearly my phrase, for anyone who reads without prejudice.

    And tho’ it’s honourable of you to help Toad in this way, I am sure he can speak for himself.

    Mr Iffy is a new one and I like it – has a ring of truth about it. And I like your icy sarcasm too!

    But it’s clear that all of the ducking and dodging is a way of avoiding the issue. Pity, for it’s important.


  44. Srdc says:


    Jeremy Bentham guy can be reasoned with. We can agree to disagree. You can’t reason with politically correct zombies.

    The separation of church and state includes the state not dictating terms on matters of faith.


  45. manus says:


    What issue? I can see you enjoy a melodrama, but I fail to see what exactly you are getting excited about.

    1) Child protection has been put in place through schemes/procedures/officers/vetting etc. Everyone is doing these things everywhere, including Ireland. There is no ducking and diving here – or are you suggesting otherwise?
    2) The confessional is not in the front line of protecting chidren. Suppose the Vatican abolished confession tomorrow – would anyone be saying ‘there goes our child protection scheme?’
    3) It remains possible that an as yet undetected paedophile may make a confession, which puts a considerable moral dilemma on the priest. But this is a broadly understood dilemma facing any confidential advisor, including medics and lawyers, and there is no easy solution.
    4) If the Irish state does implement a requirement on priests to disclose certain admissions from the confessional, then that is understandable but probably unwise. It will get pretty uncomfortable for the Church, deservedly so perhaps, some priests may be sent to jail, and eventually a new legal accommodation will be reached, because in a well-ordered society a balance between confidentially and duty of disclosure is always required.

    So please explain what you mean by ducking and dodging.


  46. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    Sr – J Bentham cannot be reasoned with – he has been stuffed and is on display. Given some on this thread, that could be my fate too. Please don’t link the word ‘zombie ‘ with ‘politically correct’; it’s so Daily Mail. And in Europe the State(s) do not dictate matters of faith, but will compel churches to obey the law, especially where churches have grossly erred. Like it or lump it, that’s a fact.

    Manny, “ducking etc”, I will be brief. This refers to those here who will not address the issues which are ripping the church apart and causing it to lose many thousands of faithful. All the cobblers about Bentham and this law or that law or if the abuser really has repented, or if this all gives a priest a headache are a failure to face a grave issue. I say, if they do not, then disaster will surely follow. My concern here is not the State, but the church. I thought that was clear if my posts were read objectively. But I am a romantic optimist here.

    The Catholic church is like a supertanker in the sense that it takes miles and miles for it to stop or change direction to avoid that iceberg which will sink it. We have all seen how some have fought tooth and nail to resist the grave allegations made against it. It is reflected here. I say, own up and sort it out. Stop being turkeys voting for Xmas. Get the pain over with and disarm critics instead of giving them endless ammunition.

    I understand your irritation with me , but that doesn’t matter. Nor does anyone’s. I simply assert that this collective denial (as I see it) is fatal.

    In fact, Toad’s posts are the most relevant here,


    Mr Squiffy.

    (has Mr T been keeping a low profile while the custard pies are flying? We should be told)


  47. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    I forgot to say spare us the cobblers also about my ‘liking for melodrama’. A student of mine once wrote of this as mellowdrama, – that’s what I like. You need some too, so let’s skip hand in hand into the sunset together….

    Mr Iffy


  48. manus says:

    The primary means of protecting children is child protection. No one here would wish for anything less than the most rigourous systems of child protection.

    The argument has been whether creating a system of police informers as an ’emergency measure’ would be an unmitigated good. It is not obvious to me that total surrender to the State’s ambitions is the only moral option, or that to question it amounts to ‘ducking and diving’.


  49. Wall Eyed Mr Whippy says:

    And another thing Manny,

    Your paragraph No 3 about those in a confidential position; I have been in a professional situation where if I suspected abuse (among other things) I was expected to, and did, report my concerns to the appropriate place. No dilemma at all.

    If I did not, it would have been a total dereliction of duty and care. And I was as much ‘in the front line’ as your No 2 paragraph,( which is I have to say, a dreadful copout). But I didn’t wring my hands and agonise about my personal situation and interests. No professional would.

    Oh enough, what’s the use?

    I’m going outside – I may be some time.


  50. joyfulpapist says:

    Not melodrama, but political grandstanding, and nothing mellow about it. Children have been injured because of the appalling, abysmal, repeated, diabolical tendency of diocese after diocese, bishop after bishop, to try to sweep child abuse under the carpet. Attack that, and I’ll cheer you on, and join you. In fact, I’ve done it myself, in a number of posts and comments.

    The ‘cover-up’ accusations in Ireland involved people in the church, the police, and the child protection services refusing to investigate complaints, trying to silence the complainants, and – in the case of the diocese and bishops – moving the offenders to where they could offend again. None of this involves reports made via the confessional. No-one, including the Irish prime minister, has offered a scrap of evidence to suggest that a single child has been injured because a priest failed to break the seal of the confessional.

    Typical political jiggery pokery.


  51. Srdc says:


    The issues are being addressed, at the right places with the right authorities.

    There is no guarantee that somebody is going to confess to this in the confessional.

    What are they going to do? bug the confessional, to get a list of whose breaking the law in Ireland. Since, confessions do not have to be heard even in a church. They would have to bug the whole country, in anticipation that someone is going to confess to being a child molestor.

    A priest is not sitting with a book in hand, making note of everybody’s sins.

    This is political correctness gone mad.


  52. manus says:

    I hope you’ve had a nice time outside.

    I’m glad you have clarified that you consider my own position to be a cop-out – that reduces the field of discussion considerably. Let’s focus on what I have said then.

    Of course there are some confidential situations where one’s professional duty is to report suspicions of abuse. That is straightforward. The question is what to do when one’s professional duty is of total confidentiality: for example for a lawyer, priest or medic. If your position is that the right to total confidentiality from these professions should be abolished, well, please say so explicitly. That isn’t an obvious view to take, and its adoption would have large implications for the legal and medical professions, as well as for the priesthood.

    Or are you suggesting that confidentialty should be abolished for priests, but not for lawyers and doctors?

    After all, the medical profession, in dealing with the reproductive health of under-age patients, will be well-placed to identify evidence of abuse. Far more so, I would say, than the priests – the surgeries are full and the confessionals are empty.

    So if you think that only the priests should be targetted in this way, please explain why.


  53. manus says:

    Ah, the night shift have arrived…


  54. Srdc says:


    The Irish’s government report on child abuse that’s coming out is said to be worser than the church’s report and handling of it. So this could be an attempt to divert attention from themselves. Typical lefty sophistry.


  55. manus says:

    Hi Srdc,

    Sounds interesting – we shall await further developments.


  56. toadspittle says:


    “The Irish’s government report on child abuse that’s coming out is said to be worser than the church’s report and handling of it.” Srdc tells us.

    Worse in what respect? More damaging? Less damaging?

    Toad is not dodging the flying pies as Whippy suggests. He is getting a bit bored with the ongoing legal bickering, that’s all.
    But he firmly believes that two organisations are going to emerge badly from this, if it is not swiftly resolved: The Irish Government and the Catholic Church.


  57. toadspittle says:

    Damn the bold. Sorry, all.


  58. golden chersonnese says:


    I think it was you introduced the legal argument, Toad.

    If any citizen knows the perpetrator of a crime, it is his or her civic and legal duty to inform the authorities of it. That goes for anyone.


  59. Toadspittle says:

    Somethig awry with his atavar. Fixed, he thinks.

    Yes Godlen, Toad who has already conceded defeat in the face of your implacable and dazzling logic, freely admits he was responsible for the whole dreary farrago above, and is deeply sorry.
    Will that do? ,(as Bron Waugh used to say.)

    In truth, Toad ‘s attention span, not inconceivably greater than that of a mayfly’s, has now been diverted by the intriguing notion of a Papist Bard of Avon.

    Any Catholic whose view of existence is as follows:::

    Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player,
    That struts and frets his hour upon the stage,
    And then is heard no more. It is a tale
    Told by an idiot, full of sound and fury,
    Signifying nothing.

    …a realistic viewpoint with which Toad utterly agrees – is the Catholic for him!

    (But then, Will himself may not have believed that at all. Who knows?)


  60. Toadspittle says:

    “Godlen” was a serendipitous accident. Toad might be onto somthig here!


  61. golden chersonnese says:

    There, there, Toad 😉


  62. toadspittle says:

    Where, where, Godlen?(smiley face)


  63. golden chersonnese says:

    Life’s but a walking shadow, a poor player . . .
    (But then, Will himself may not have believed that at all. Who knows?)

    Indeed, Toad, he may not have, for was it not in a different opus, the same bard said:

    What a piece of work is a man! How noble in
    Reason! how infinite in faculties! in form and moving
    how express and admirable! In action how like an Angel!
    in apprehension how like a god! the beauty of the
    world! the paragon of animals! . . .
    , which isn’t a whole lot different from . . .

    Genesis 1:27
    So God created man in his own likeness.
    He created him in the likeness of God.


    Psalm 8
    4 What is a human being that you think about him?
    What is a son of man that you take care of him?
    5 You made him a little lower than the heavenly beings.
    You placed on him a crown of glory and honor.

    Catholic? Doubtful.


  64. Srdc says:


    Yes, this needs to be swiftly resolved. If lawyers and doctors are not being held responsible for disclosing patient confidentiality.

    Yet, only the Catholic Church is being singled out. Make no mistake this is a war.


  65. golden chersonnese says:

    What do an Irish and an Australia politician have in common?


  66. toadspittle says:

    “So God created man in his own likeness.
    He created him in the likeness of God.”

    Toad supposes that’s why we are all so ugly. If it’s true…


  67. toadspittle says:

    “Yet only the Catholic Church is being singled out. Make no mistake this is a war.” moans Srdc, holding head in hands and rocking back and forth.

    The Irish Government will say that it is singling nobody out, that it’s the Church that’s ‘singling’ itself out by being the only one who won’t go along with the proposal. Toad doesn’t know.

    What he is pretty sure about is that the Irish Government will suff as a result of ear-splitting howls of, “Persecution! Coercion! Infamy! Insanity! The sky is falling! Etc.” from hysterical Papists, and equally loud protestations from hysterical Anti-Papists of, ” Another cover-up! Protecting child molesters yet again! More sinister plots by men in black! My uncles was strangled by a rosary-wielding albino from Opus Dei! Etc.”

    Naturally, Toad disagrees with both these absurd claims. (smiley face.)



  68. golden chersonnese says:

    But you’re beautiful inside, Toad.


  69. toadspittle says:


    Very true, Godlen. Toad’s bowels are squeaky clean.

    And Toad, after dogwalking reflection, must qualify the remark about us all being ugly. He was, of course, referring only to men.

    The idea of ‘The Fair Sex’, (Toad waxes poetical!) such as yourself, Joyful, Kathleen, Gertrude, Lady Gaga and Dame Flora Robson being ‘ugly,’ is clearly quite preposterous.


  70. toadspittle says:


    In his post at 7.51 am, Toad neglected to say that the Church in Ireland will also suffer, – as a result of Anti-Papist howls of, “More Cover-ups! Child molesters hiding in the confessional box! etc.”

    Too late now, though. We’re all into Neo-Paganism. This ‘thread’ is toast.


  71. Gertrude says:

    Not quite all Toad.

    Ireland has every right to be outraged – all Catholic’s from the Holy Father down are outraged, but trying to enforce a law breaking the seal of the confessional cannot work simply because it is unenforcable. Countless Holy Martyrs in England, Wales and beyond have died preserving those things that we hold sacred and holy, and doubtless Priests will carry on observing the seal of confession.
    Whippies cries of ‘shameful’, coverup’ etc., are advanced hyperbole. No-one denies all these adjectives. It is all these things – and more. Manus points to the safe-guarding measures that are now (belatedly) in place; and he is right, but not even the most rigid safe-guarding will stop a serial predator in the pursuit of his/her evil intent. As most abuse is carried out within or by family members all the cries for vengeance from the state will be to no avail.
    The Holy Father has acted wisely and practically.


  72. golden chersonnese says:

    Good recent comment over at Father Z’s:

    Daniel A. says:
    22 July 2011 at 8:05 pm
    There has been a court case in Ireland that resulted in the protection of the priest-penitent privilege. Since the law in question doesn’t explicitly mention the Confessional, the only reason it is being related to the Confessional is because various government ministers keep saying that the Seal of the Confessional won’t be an excuse. But their opinion may not be legally acurate. I wonder how a case where a priest was entrapped (because, to be honest, that’s the only way failure to report on a confession would ever be discovered) and cited legal precedent protecting the seal would be decided. I suppose it depends on how anti-Catholic the judge is.

    I get the sense that the people who are pushing this law through are quite unfamiliar with the sacrament of Confession. They seem to think that people are always identifiable and that they confess in extreme detail (a picture of Confession that I often see in the movies and television, wherein Confession is like a counselling session). Even IF the Seal were not unbreakable, it would be a bad idea to break it. A priest could easily get confused between two penitents who confessed one after the other, not be sure that what is being confessed is sexual abuse, or make any number of other errors.

    Because of the poor design of the law, it seems like mere political posturing. It is being portrayed as a “tough on child abuse” law to counter the Church, but in fact, if it were implemented, would be more a case of the State forcing the Church to spy on the people for them. I think the government is playing a game, making a law that is antithetical to the Chruch and forcing the Church to fight the law, thus making the Church look like defenders of pedophiles.

    The message that needs to be sent to the people, in Ireland and elsewhere, is that the law is directed not only against the Church but against the people. It is a law that turns confessors into informants, and the Church into an investigating arm of the State.

    Wish I’d said that.


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