"Information gained in the context of sacramental confession may not be used in any other forum."
CNA contacted the Archdiocese of Westminster and the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England and Wales for comment on the allegations of violation of the seal, and to confirm the alleged letter from Cardinal Hume, but has not yet received a response.
Hall stated that the Ministry of Defense instructed the chaplains to put military efficiency above their spiritual duties.
"Would you expect a chaplain to withhold the fact that someone was giving away their location to a Russian submarine? At the time, the [Ministry of Defense']s view was that homosexuality was in the same category--that it would damage the efficacy of the units," he told The Times.
While Hall suggested that a priest would be obliged to report acts of espionage confessed to him, Church law admits no exception to the secrecy of the confessional.
In 2001, former FBI agent Robert Hanssen was arrested and pled guilty to 15 counts of espionage. Hanssen, a practicing Catholic, repeatedly confessed his crimes to a priest, who did not report what he did to the authorities.
Conversations that occur outside of the context of a sacramental confession, even if they occur in the context of counseling or mentorship, do not fall under the seal of confession. If a servicemember went to a chaplain seeking advice and revealed, inadvertently or purposefully, a same-sex relationship, the chaplain would not be bound to keep that a secret as though it were made in confession.
Despite focus on sacramental confession in the allegations of LGB activists, Hall's comments to the press are actually ambiguous as to whether priests may, in fact, have violated the seal of confession. Some remarks from Hall suggest that the context of "confessions" may have been pastoral or other guidance, but not sacramental confession.
He said that chaplains were "welfare officers" who heard "issues of a highly personal nature" about a person's marriage, family, and faith life, but did not offer specific allegations concerning violations of the sacramental seal.
"What was more damaging was not any particular case where it may or may not have happened," said Hall. "It was the fact that the threat of it happening removes the key pastoral support option for people going through the toughest time of their life. Because you knew you couldn't talk to a chaplain, so who the hell could you talk to?"