.- Catholic priests in Ireland are prepared to âstronglyâ resist a proposed law that would require them to disclose information learned in confession.
âMore than any other issue, it is probably the one that will unite both the liberal and conservative wings of the Church,â said Father Tony Flannery, a priest with the Association of Catholic Priests, in a July 18 e-mail to CNA.
âIf even one exception was made to the seal of Confession, then the whole Sacrament would collapse,â he stated. âThe truth of faith that this Sacrament is meant to convey is central to Christian teaching.â
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 âworkable.â
âWhen a person confesses in the confessional box, the priest would not normally know who they are, or indeed be able to see them,â he explained. âSo how is he to report them?â
It is also âunlikelyâ that a person involved in abuse would go to confession, Fr. Flannery pointed out.
âIn my forty years of priesthood, I don't ever remember someone confessing that they were currently abusing someone,â he said.
He noted that the prime ministerâs 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.
âWhy make this one the only crime to be reported?â Fr. Flannery wondered.
The priest contends the proposed law is a âtotal over-reactionâ 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 âmore calm and reasoned about all thisâ after a few months have passed.
But he made clear that âif this does come to law - which I do not expect - priests will resist it strongly.â