Update: Here’s a one minute video of the news conference from The Australian:
And here’s my fixed version of that interview: HERE.
This is just horrific. Why? Read the analysis I made below, before this video was provided. It’s worse than I thought. What he’s saying is that any accused priest is to be denied confession until he dies. Remember that even 50% of priests who are accused are innocent. Perhaps even all priests, to a man, who have been accused and commit suicide are innocent. They just can’t take the betrayal of their fellow bishops and priests. Imagine now that they are refused access to confession for life. Just. Wow. I bet that most all of them, who are innocent of the accusations, and are suffering slander for the sake of the Kingdom of Heaven, will be sorely tempted to think that God hates them and wants nothing more than that they go to hell. Imagine, being locked out of any possibility of absolution… Quote:
“I would never hear the confession of a priest who was suspected of such a thing.”
– Cardinal George Pell
Remember, he’s talking about just being “suspected.” And he would lock someone out of confession for life for being “suspected,” even though such suspected people could very well be innocent…
Further update: A clarification was issued:
A priest who suspects the sacrament of penance will be abused by the penitent should not hear such a confession. Any absolution is dependent on genuine personal repentance, a commitment to suitable restitution and a firm “purpose of amendment” to sin no more. (here on the site of the Archdiocese of Sydney)
Of course, that clarification is as clear as mud. Note the words: “A priest who suspects…” The point is, how does he know until he hears the confession, unless the situation is such as I’ve outlined further below, but then that wouldn’t be a matter of suspecting anything. The priest would already know for certain. But the Cardinal insists on suspicions. This is not good. You can deny absolution if you find out that there is no repentance, right?
Yet another update: The Cardinal’s comment in the Sydney Morning Herald:
There has also been misunderstanding over the seal of Confession, causing a diversion from the real issue.
Going to Confession is not getting a ticket to sin. If a penitent is not genuinely sorry and is determined to return to his wrongdoing, then the sacrament is useless; a sacrilege and an insult to God.
Catholic teaching is clear: the seal of Confession is inviolable. The law of the land is also clear. Federal and state laws protect a member of the clergy from being forced to divulge details of a religious Confession, just as it protects clients from being forced to disclose what they discuss with their lawyers.
Religious freedom is protected by the Australian constitution; an essential part of the separation of church and state, which protects believers and faith communities from government dictating religious belief and practice.
Priests are well able to comply with the law about reporting crimes while maintaining the seal of Confession as the law allows. As a bishop, I do not hear the confessions of my priests (except in an emergency). A priest who suspects the sacrament of Penance will be abused by a penitent should not hear such a confession
So, again, no clarification at all. It all boils down to the words, “A priest who suspects…” That’s not good enough.
Update for the weekend of November 18, 2012: Parishes in Australia will be distributing a two page memo about the royal commission in church bulletins. Here’s the *.pdf: Royal Commission Bishops’ Response, November, 2012. Here’s a lovely paragraph:
It is unjust and inappropriate to suggest crimes are being – or have been – committed, without producing evidence; without asking those accused for their responses before making generalised slurs.
So, we can make generalized slurs tearing down entire religions if we only make a pro-forma show of justice about one case, wherein the “evidence” is not weighed in court, nor any response of the accused party, but all is relativized to what goes into any gossip’s preliminary preparation for a suggestion of a crime? Such a statement is the de facto modus agendi of anti-Catholic SNAP, which admits it lies out of sheer hatred of priests and the Catholic Church. But this is the careful statement of the bishops of Australia. Uh-huh. It seems like I should add all this into another post for The Judas Crisis series on the sidebar of http://holysoulshermitage.com.
* * * The original post below * * *
Jared Owens of The Australian wrote on 14 November 2012 about Cardinal Pell’s take on the pressure the Australian government is putting on the Church to break the seal of confession in the case of sexual abuse:
Cardinal Pell said he hoped priests would confidentially counsel any abuser to “follow the law”.
In other words, if they are actually hearing about abuse during confession, the Cardinal hopes that the priests hearing the confession will respect the seal of confession. That’s expected. That’s good. There is no sin so great that God’s mercy cannot provide forgiveness for those who are truly repentant. He also says this:
But he said priests should avoid hearing confession from colleagues suspected of committing child sex abuse to avoid being bound by the Seal of Confession.
Of course, that’s the paraphrase of the reporter. But now he uses quotation marks:
“If the priest knows beforehand about such a situation, the priest should refuse to hear the confession,” Cardinal Pell said.
“Refuse to hear the confession.” Is that an accurate quote? How to parse this?
The worst case scenario: Let’s take the Cardinal at his word. It is a confession we are talking about, that is, a true confession, where the priest knows the person is truly penitent, all this before the confession begins. Perhaps I have no imagination[!], but it seems to me that the only possible scenario here is that someone comes to a priest to make an accusation against someone else in the parish. As that person finishes and leaves out the front door, the alleged perp comes into the back door demanding an absolution, even before a mandatory call to the police can be made. The alleged perp might well be innocent of the charges, and wants absolution for other sins before going off to prison, as he suspects, knowing that he’s been framed for revenge, say, over a family inheritance or some such thing. But the priest doesn’t know any of this, and it is all hearsay to this point. He is to hear the confession. But perhaps the Cardinal has something else in mind. I can’t imagine what it is. I wouldn’t want to think that he wants priests to run away from hearing confessions just to protect themselves under the law, desiring that sinners rot in hell for eternity for the sake of someone else’s momentary political correctness upon this earth. God’s mercy is great enough to cover this circumstance. We’re not more powerful than God. God will not understand and applaud our prudence which mocks Him on the cross even while He says: “Father, forgive them.” But maybe the Cardinal is thinking of some other scenario. Can you think of one for me? Help me to understand.
The best case scenario: Sometimes people say things that they understand in their own minds, but which they don’t articulate well. The Cardinal is, perhaps, notorious for that about many important doctrinal matters. And reporters like to capitalize on such things. Is there is a good and holy way to understand all this? Let’s take an extreme example, for that is the only example that fits as far as my poor imagination goes. It requires that the would-be confession in question is — against the words of the Cardinal — not a true confession, but perhaps this is what he meant:
Say that a priest walks in on an abuse situation, catching someone on the parish grounds in some horrific sexual act with a minor. Say that the guilty party immediately grabs hold of the priest and violently throws him to the ground, demanding an absolution, screaming that because it is a confession, the priest will have to keep his mouth shut and not break the seal of confession. The guilty party then violently slaps the priest repeatedly, screaming, “Do you understand me? Give me the absolution, NOW!” Meanwhile, the youngster who was being abused is wimpering and crying and cowering over to the side, naked and frightened. “Shut the hell up!” screams the guilty party. /// Now, what should the innocent priest do, give the perp an absolution in this circumstance? Well, no. The grace of the sacrament would not be fruitfully received. The guilty party wants to commit a sacrilege of utilizing the sacrament of confession, namely, the seal of confession, for ulterior motives of self-protection, and has no desire for the mercy of God.
At any rate, there is great ambiguity here. We don’t need ambiguity when it comes to our eternal salvation.
By the way, and just to say: Australians, generally speaking, have the wild idea ingrained into their very beings, that if a sin can be forgiven, it is not a sin and is not serious in any way, and that if a sin cannot be forgiven, only then is it a sin, but it still can’t be forgiven. So, really, effectively, no one ever goes to confession in Australia. Just to set the record straight: any sin, even grave sin, can be forgiven, if you want that forgiveness from God.
By the way, and just to say: Any priest who will not absolve a truly penitent sinner just for the sake of political correctness takes that sin, it seems to me, upon themselves in the sight of God. The guilty party may well be forgiven by God directly, but the priest might well go to hell for eternity. Think about it.