.- Various Venezuelan bishops are criticizing a new law on national intelligence that would force all Venezuelans to act as informants. Cardinal Jorge Urosa of Caracas has reacted to the law by warning that the law would endanger the seal of confession.
The law states that citizens who refuse to take part in intelligence operations could be charged by the government. Human rights groups, judges and journalists warn that the new law would create a society of spies and contains vague clauses that would be open to all kinds of abuse by authorities.
Cardinal Urosa said the law may violate human rights enshrined in the country’s Constitution. “We are going to study it in detail, because it is essential that constitutionality be respected, especially in the areas that have to do with the human, civil, and political rights of all Venezuelans.”
The cardinal also criticized the law for containing many clauses “written in a very generic fashion.” The seal of confession, he continued, “has always been respected by priests. We have an obligation to keep secret what we hear in confession. That cannot be violated by any law. It would seem this law would affect the seal, and in this sense we cannot compromise.”
Cardinal Urosa emphasized that the faithful have a right to privacy and to secrecy with regards to what they tell the priest. “We cannot turn confessors into informants,” he said.
Archbishop Baltasar Porras of Merida said on Union Radio that with the new law, state security police could act in secret, without the presence of attorneys and in violation of professional confidentiality. He also expressed concern about the seal of confession and about the confidentiality of sources in journalism. The law would turn family and community members against one another, with each person becoming a tool of the state, similar to “what happened in the 30s and 40s in some countries such as Hitler’s Germany, Mussolini’s Italy or Franco’s Spain.”