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  #1  
Old Feb 24, '12, 1:31 pm
reagent6 reagent6 is offline
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Default Seal of confession universal?

Hello brothers and sisters

I was thinking about the confidentiality of confession and how wonderful it is that this right is protected by civil law here in the North America and Europe. God forbid that the federal government ever decides to make a rule (in the nature of the recent HHS ruling ) that takes this right away from us!

Anyway I got to wondering if the seal of confession is accepted and protected in all countries. Are there places where a priest can be punished for not revealing what he heard in confession? I believe this may have been the case in Mexico during the civil war of 1915.

If so, what do catholics do in such places? Do priests still keep confession confidentiality? If they do then there might be a lot of priests in jail. Or does the vatican refuse to send priests to those countries?
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  #2  
Old Feb 24, '12, 2:05 pm
achmafooma achmafooma is offline
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Default Re: Seal of confession universal?

Excellent question. Alas, I do not know the answer.

I do know that Priests are bound to the seal of the confessional under Canon law, no matter what civil law says. My understanding is that a Priest is required to allow himself even to be put to death rather than breaking the seal of the Confessional.

So in countries where Priests are required to reveal what was confessed to them in the Sacrament (and I presume there are such countries), a Priest should go to prison (or submit to any other civil punishment, up to and including death) rather than break the seal.

Needless to say, the Church takes the seal very seriously even if some civil governments don't .

God bless.
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  #3  
Old Feb 24, '12, 2:12 pm
ValPal ValPal is offline
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Default Re: Seal of confession universal?

[quote=reagent6;9001166]Anyway I got to wondering if the seal of confession is accepted and protected in all countries.[/quote[

I have never researched the matter, but I seriously doubt that it is protected universally. Take North Korea for example, where the leader is considered "God." There is no way the leadership of that country is going to respect something like the Seal of Confession. The same is true of other dictatorships and communist countries. I would also be surprised if it was respected in devout Muslim countries, such as Saudi Arabia.

Quote:
If so, what do catholics do in such places? Do priests still keep confession confidentiality? If they do then there might be a lot of priests in jail. Or does the vatican refuse to send priests to those countries?
The priest has no choice in the matter, since the Seal is absolute. In cases like this, I believe it is advisable to have the penitent remain anonymous, this way the priest cannot associate the person with the sin.
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Old Feb 24, '12, 7:55 pm
PacoG PacoG is offline
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Default Re: Seal of confession universal?

Quote:
Originally Posted by reagent6 View Post
Hello brothers and sisters

I was thinking about the confidentiality of confession and how wonderful it is that this right is protected by civil law here in the North America and Europe. God forbid that the federal government ever decides to make a rule (in the nature of the recent HHS ruling ) that takes this right away from us!
You are talking apples and oranges. Rules of court are rules of court. The administration can't take away priest-penitent confidentiality by regulation. Only courts (or the Congress by passing a law) can limit the privilege. Privilege is a rule of evidence. In any event, state courts are governed by their own rules of evidence and the Federal courts are governed by their own. Basically, you have 51 different court systems in the United States--50 states and the Federal system.

At best, this is something that comes up once every five in each of the 51 jurisdictions.

The Texas Rules of Evidence are pretty standard for state evidentiary rules:

RULE 505. COMMUNICATIONS TO MEMBERS OF THE CLERGY

(a) Definitions.
As used in this rule:

(1) A "member of the clergy" is a minister, priest, rabbi, accredited Christian Science Practitioner, or other similar functionary of a religious organization or an individual reasonably believed so to be by the person consulting with such individual.

(2) A communication is "confidential" if made privately and not intended for further disclosure except to other persons present in furtherance of the purpose of the communication.

(b) General Rule of Privilege. A person has a privilege to refuse to disclose and to prevent another from disclosing a confidential communication by the person to a member of the clergy in the member's professional character as spiritual adviser.

(c) Who May Claim the Privilege. The privilege may be claimed by the person, by the person's guardian or conservator, or by the personal representative of the person if the person is deceased. The member of the clergy to whom the communication was made is presumed to have authority to claim the privilege but only on behalf of the communicant.

I've practiced law for 17 years. This hasn't been an issue in either the Texas court system or in the Fifth U.S. Circuit as long as I have been an attorney.
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  #5  
Old Feb 24, '12, 8:20 pm
PacoG PacoG is offline
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Default Re: Seal of confession universal?

Another reason you will never see the Clergy-Penitent privilege messed with is because it would be seen as a slippery slope by the other profession protected by a privilege. If Congress or a state legislature started messing with it, attorneys would see it as a threat to the attorney-client and attorney work product privilege and doctors would see it as a threat to the doctor-patient privilege. There would be a huge backlash. You would be talking about three powerful institutions (the Church, a united legal profession and a united medical profession) would see it as a major threat along a slippery slope.

We in the Bar have fought hard to protect attorney-client and the attorney work product privileges. Many a brave attorney has gone to jail resisting subpoenae for client records or for refusing to divulge a communication made by a client. Our organizations are ever vigilant. A threat to the Clergy-Penitent privilege would get heavy opposition from the criminal defense bar (which would see it as an outrage against our clients' abilities to seek spiritual counseling in addition to the slippery slope threat) and general opposition from the overall bar because it would be seen as an erosion of all privileges.
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  #6  
Old Feb 24, '12, 9:07 pm
Richard320 Richard320 is offline
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Default Re: Seal of confession universal?

It is and it isn't.

The Church says it is, some countries say it isn't, and some countries want to change it to isn't. http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/news...-confessional/

If a priest does break the seal, he's finished as a priest.
Quote:
Can. 1388 1. A confessor who directly violates the sacramental seal incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; one who does so only indirectly is to be punished according to the gravity of the delict.
Besides Canon Law excommunication, I suspect his Ordinary and his brother priests would shun him. Even after the excommunication was lifted.
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  #7  
Old Feb 25, '12, 5:03 pm
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oneGODoneCHURCH oneGODoneCHURCH is offline
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Default Re: Seal of confession universal?

there have even been priest in the USA that have gone to jail for not breaking it.
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