Catholic FAQ


Latest Threads
newest posts



Go Back   Catholic Answers Forums > Forums > Apologetics
 

Welcome to Catholic Answers Forums, the largest Catholic Community on the Web.

Here you can join over 400,000 members from around the world discussing all things Catholic. Membership is open to all, Catholic and non-Catholic alike, who seek the Truth with Charity.

To gain full access, you must register for a FREE account. Registered members are able to:
  • Submit questions about the faith to experts from Catholic Answers
  • Participate in all forum discussions
  • Communicate privately with Catholics from around the world
  • Plus join a prayer group, read with the Book Club, and much more.
Registration is fast, simple and absolutely free. So join our community today!

Have a question about registration or your account log-in? Just contact our Support Hotline.

Closed Thread
 
Thread Tools Search Thread Display
  #1  
Old Nov 19, '11, 9:47 am
planehopr planehopr is offline
New Member
 
Join Date: March 24, 2011
Posts: 34
Religion: other
Default If someone confesses a heinous crime to a priest, does he go to jail?

My fiancee just informed me that confessions are so sacred that a man can confess to rape or murder and work it out with the priest without any risk of going to jail.

Is this true? Most "professionals" I know have confidentiality agreements that go right out the door when a serious crime is involved or suspected (like child abuse). In other words if you are talking to a medical professional and tell them about your life, its confidential...but if you tell them about a crime, or they suspect a crime its not confidential. This distinction is usually explained to you right up front.

I'm not sure how real this scenario is, or if people would confess a murder to a priest, but I imagine in some circles or cultures this might actually happen...maybe like the Italian mafia or something.

If this confidentially is sacred, is it unethical to not protect others from another crime from this individual. Would blood be on the hands of the church if this guy harmed another person because he wasn't turned in?
  #2  
Old Nov 19, '11, 10:06 am
1ke 1ke is offline
Forum Elder
 
Join Date: May 25, 2004
Posts: 24,829
Religion: Catholic
Default Re: If someone confesses a heinous crime to a priest, does he go to jail?

The seal of confession is absolute.

The priest cannot reveal anything from confession to anyone.
__________________
Pax, ke

ke's universal disclaimer: In my posts, when I post about marriage, canon law, or sacraments I am talking about Latin Rite only, not the Orthodox and Eastern Rites. These are exceptions that confuse the issue and I am not talking about those.
  #3  
Old Nov 19, '11, 11:20 am
Leegal's Avatar
Leegal Leegal is offline
Regular Member
 
Join Date: November 1, 2011
Posts: 1,783
Religion: Roman Catholic
Default Re: If someone confesses a heinous crime to a priest, does he go to jail?

Quote:
Originally Posted by planehopr View Post
My fiancee just informed me that confessions are so sacred that a man can confess to rape or murder and work it out with the priest without any risk of going to jail.

Is this true?
The priest may withhold absolution unless the participant turns himself in. The priest would certain counsel that the person turn himself in. But, I would think there can be no absolution unless the person turns himself in.

If the person does not turn himself in, he's still in the state of grave sin as he was before he confessed to the priest. The priest cannot turn him in. A priest can never break the seal of the confessional. A priest who does so may no longer be a priest since the Church would view the violation of the confessional as very serious.

But that does not absolve the man from his crime. He may never be caught, but he is not absolved.
  #4  
Old Nov 19, '11, 11:24 am
Castello Castello is offline
Junior Member
 
Join Date: September 29, 2011
Posts: 1,476
Religion: Catholic
Default Re: If someone confesses a heinous crime to a priest, does he go to jail?

The priest cannot make the absolution depend on the penitent revealing himself. That would violate the seal of confession.

Search these forums, the Catholic dogma and law is explained in other threads.
  #5  
Old Nov 19, '11, 11:26 am
plainandsimple plainandsimple is offline
New Member
 
Join Date: May 30, 2011
Posts: 54
Religion: Roman Catholic
Default Re: If someone confesses a heinous crime to a priest, does he go to jail?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Leegal View Post
The priest may withhold absolution unless the participant turns himself in. The priest would certain counsel that the person turn himself in. But, I would think there can be no absolution unless the person turns himself in.

If the person does not turn himself in, he's still in the state of grave sin as he was before he confessed to the priest. The priest cannot turn him in. A priest can never break the seal of the confessional. A priest who does so may no longer be a priest since the Church would view the violation of the confessional as very serious.

But that does not absolve the man from his crime. He may never be caught, but he is not absolved.
I would like to agree with that. For example, if you steal a car, the priest would most likely tell you to return it (basically turning yourself in) as penance/to get absolution.
  #6  
Old Nov 19, '11, 11:28 am
Leegal's Avatar
Leegal Leegal is offline
Regular Member
 
Join Date: November 1, 2011
Posts: 1,783
Religion: Roman Catholic
Default Re: If someone confesses a heinous crime to a priest, does he go to jail?

I wanted to add that we have an eithical and moral duty to protect others if possible.

But your scenario speaks to a crime that is already committed. We have no duty to report a crime, after the fact, as men and women. However, as men and women, we cannot obstruct justice, so if the police come calling you cannot lie about what you, as an individual, knew or saw about a crime (including if someone confesses to you), because you would then be committing a further crime -- the crime of the obstruction of justice.

A priest can never violate the confessional. If the police come calling, he cannot reveal what he was told about the commission of a crime.

However, doctors, lawyers, priests can report a crime that has NOT yet taken place. That's not a confession, but a threat. If a priest, doctor or lawyer hears someone say "I am going to kill my wife or boss today", they can report it because it will protect a life from a crime that has not yet happened. There's no confession if it has not happened.
  #7  
Old Nov 19, '11, 11:35 am
Leegal's Avatar
Leegal Leegal is offline
Regular Member
 
Join Date: November 1, 2011
Posts: 1,783
Religion: Roman Catholic
Default Re: If someone confesses a heinous crime to a priest, does he go to jail?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Castello View Post
The priest cannot make the absolution depend on the penitent revealing himself. That would violate the seal of confession.

Search these forums, the Catholic dogma and law is explained in other threads.
If true, then there is no absolution without penance or restitution. If the priest says "I absolve you" and you keep the car you stole, not making restitution, what's the point? He's not absolved unless he corrects his mistake -- penance by returning the car or turning himself in.

If you rape or kill someone and confess only to the priest, where is the true absolution (the removal of the stain of sin), unless you turn yourself in? The priest is not turning you in; it's you who must turn yourself in if the sacrament of reconciliation is to be complete.
  #8  
Old Nov 19, '11, 11:37 am
puzzleannie puzzleannie is offline
Forum Elder
 
Join Date: September 7, 2004
Posts: 37,470
Religion: Catholic no adjectives
Default Re: If someone confesses a heinous crime to a priest, does he go to jail?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Leegal View Post
The priest may withhold absolution unless the participant turns himself in. The d.
No, not true; the only reason he can withhold absolution is when the penitent is unrepentant. He can certainly counsel the penitent on what he has to do in order to give evidence of repentance, but absolution is conditional on repentence and contrition, not on actions that are only peripheral or tangential to that. For instance, he could not require a sincerely contrite penitent to repay stolen money as a condition of absolution.

If the penitent's refusal to turn himself into the authorities indicates lack of contrition, only then could the priest refuse absolution.

IN any case this and all content of the confession are absolutely confidential.

The old Hitchcock movie "I Confess" with Montgomery Clift as the priest is, for once, an accurate Hollywood portrayal of the absolute nature of the seal of confession.
__________________
Whatever the Lord pleases He does, on heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. Ps. 135
  #9  
Old Nov 19, '11, 11:39 am
rhiannonh's Avatar
rhiannonh rhiannonh is offline
Junior Member
Prayer Warrior
 
Join Date: October 30, 2011
Posts: 357
Religion: Anglican
Default Re: If someone confesses a heinous crime to a priest, does he go to jail?

He cannot reveal anything you have said.

But he can gently ask the offender to come forward themselves and will work with them all the way to help them to do so. For whilst one has been forgiven by God, the next step is to be able to forgive oneself. One would never be truelly at peace with yourself if one didn't own up to the crime. 15/20 years in prison is more than a life time but the memory of what the offender has done will carry with them for life. They will carry the memory with them which ever they choose to do but knowing one has done their time in full and with grace and have learned they have done wrong then they will be at peace with God.

So, yes it is possible that an offender who has committed the worse crime possible if they confess to the priest, the priest cannot break the confidence. How they deal with it when they confess to the bishop etc because surely priests need to offload what they hear in sometimes, off course it all in confession so no one can do anything. Like I say though, the priest does have power to encourage the confessor to own up. A good priest will support them all the way through. For the sinner needs a real friend too. We are all sinners and all in need of that guidence so its no difference when its a crime.
  #10  
Old Nov 19, '11, 11:41 am
puzzleannie puzzleannie is offline
Forum Elder
 
Join Date: September 7, 2004
Posts: 37,470
Religion: Catholic no adjectives
Default Re: If someone confesses a heinous crime to a priest, does he go to jail?

Quote:
Originally Posted by rhiannonh View Post
. How they deal with it when they confess to the bishop etc because surely priests need to offload what they hear in sometimes, off course it all in confession so no one can do anything. .
A priest may not, under any circumstances, including his own sacramental confession, reveal the contents of anyone' else's confession, not even to the bishop.

The only situation related to this that might arise is a priest who, in violation of canon law, absolves someone whose sin involved the priest himself (a woman he slept with, for instance) and even then he could only reveal details of his own words and actions, not another person and not identifying them by name.
__________________
Whatever the Lord pleases He does, on heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. Ps. 135
  #11  
Old Nov 19, '11, 11:49 am
philial's Avatar
philial philial is offline
Regular Member
 
Join Date: September 12, 2010
Posts: 585
Religion: Catholic
Default Re: If someone confesses a heinous crime to a priest, does he go to jail?

The important thing to remember about confession is that it is a confrontation with the self. It is a moment of conversion & renewal, during which one is expected to accept full responsibility for one's sins, and, given certain crimes, especially the ones mentioned, this would involve surrendering to the Police. The only exception being if there is danger of imminent death.

Absolution can be given conditionally. Indeed, all absolution is conditional upon completing penance, and a priest can impose a variety of penances, including, I guess, going to the police!

There was, at one time, the matter of reserved sins. These were offenses that were considered so serious that only a bishop could give absolution. But, I must confess, my knowledge of these is far from complete.
  #12  
Old Nov 19, '11, 12:02 pm
KostyaJMJ's Avatar
KostyaJMJ KostyaJMJ is offline
Regular Member
 
Join Date: December 10, 2009
Posts: 1,628
Default Re: If someone confesses a heinous crime to a priest, does he go to jail?

Quote:
Originally Posted by philial View Post
Absolution can be given conditionally. Indeed, all absolution is conditional upon completing penance, and a priest can impose a variety of penances, including, I guess, going to the police!
The priest can not make absolution conditional on going to the police. He can exhort the penitent to turn himself in but he can absolutely not make absolution conditional upon it. What would be the point of the seal of confession if the priest could get around it so easily?

Penance isn't even necessary for absolution. Penance is given to pay for the temporal punishment due to sin.

For example, if you stole 1,000 dollars the priest has the ability to grant you absolution but he can't remove the punishment for that sin. In order to do that the priest may assign a penance to help.

He may ask if it is possible to return the money without implicating yourself. If you refuse that penance he may ask if it is possible to give that amount of money to charity. If that isn't possible then he may assign a good deed or prayer... ect.
  #13  
Old Nov 19, '11, 12:24 pm
Fone Bone 2001 Fone Bone 2001 is offline
Regular Member
 
Join Date: June 6, 2007
Posts: 1,855
Religion: Catholic Christian
Default Re: If someone confesses a heinous crime to a priest, does he go to jail?

Quote:
Originally Posted by planehopr View Post
My fiancee just informed me that confessions are so sacred that a man can confess to rape or murder and work it out with the priest without any risk of going to jail.

Is this true? Most "professionals" I know have confidentiality agreements that go right out the door when a serious crime is involved or suspected (like child abuse). In other words if you are talking to a medical professional and tell them about your life, its confidential...but if you tell them about a crime, or they suspect a crime its not confidential. This distinction is usually explained to you right up front.

I'm not sure how real this scenario is, or if people would confess a murder to a priest, but I imagine in some circles or cultures this might actually happen...maybe like the Italian mafia or something.

If this confidentially is sacred, is it unethical to not protect others from another crime from this individual. Would blood be on the hands of the church if this guy harmed another person because he wasn't turned in?
As others have said, the seal of the confessional is truly inviolable. Under no circumstances is the priest allowed to disclose or even act on the knowledge he has gained.

Also, making absolution conditional on that penitent's publicly revealing his or her sin is also not allowed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Leegal View Post
But your scenario speaks to a crime that is already committed. We have no duty to report a crime, after the fact, as men and women.
That's not true.

The seal of the confessional is indeed inviolable, but under normal, secular/natural circumstances, it is actually a crime to fail to report certain crimes. I think it's stuff like child abuse, rape, murder, things of that very serious nature.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Leegal View Post
If a priest, doctor or lawyer hears someone say "I am going to kill my wife or boss today", they can report it because it will protect a life from a crime that has not yet happened. There's no confession if it has not happened.
True, but with one caveat: if during a confession - i.e. in the context of that Sacrament - a penitent expresses the intention to do such a thing, the priest cannot reveal that. The law is that he cannot reveal or act on any knowledge gained while hearing a confession.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Leegal View Post
If you rape or kill someone and confess only to the priest, where is the true absolution (the removal of the stain of sin), unless you turn yourself in? The priest is not turning you in; it's you who must turn yourself in if the sacrament of reconciliation is to be complete.
Nonetheless, priests are not allowed to make public revelation of one's sin/crime a condition for absolution. The most he can do is exhort the penitent to turn himself or herself in.

Quote:
Originally Posted by philial View Post
Absolution can be given conditionally. Indeed, all absolution is conditional upon completing penance,
If you mean absolution doesn't take effect if the penitent has no intention of doing any penance, then you're right.

If you mean absolution doesn't take effect until the penitent completes the assigned penance, then no, that is incorrect:

Performing the penance doesn't affect the absolution. The absolution is free from God and entirely remits the eternal punishment for the sins you've committed after baptism (or after your last confession). The penance helps to chip away at the temporal punishment for your sins (i.e. your attachment to sin). It also is a way for the penitent to express his or her sorrow for sin more fully.

Quote:
Originally Posted by philial View Post
and a priest can impose a variety of penances, including, I guess, going to the police!
No priest is allowed to make one's publicly revealing one's sin(s) a condition for absolution. He can only encourage and exhort the penitent to do so.
  #14  
Old Nov 19, '11, 12:50 pm
puzzleannie puzzleannie is offline
Forum Elder
 
Join Date: September 7, 2004
Posts: 37,470
Religion: Catholic no adjectives
Default Re: If someone confesses a heinous crime to a priest, does he go to jail?

Quote:
Originally Posted by philial View Post
Absolution can be given conditionally. Indeed, all absolution is conditional upon completing penance, and a priest can impose a variety of penances, including, I guess, going to the police!

.
no absolution is not conditional upon performing a penance
__________________
Whatever the Lord pleases He does, on heaven and on earth, in the seas and all deeps. Ps. 135
  #15  
Old Nov 19, '11, 1:13 pm
Nelka's Avatar
Nelka Nelka is offline
Regular Member
Prayer Warrior
 
Join Date: August 14, 2010
Posts: 4,701
Religion: Roman Catholic
Default Re: If someone confesses a heinous crime to a priest, does he go to jail?

Quote:
Originally Posted by puzzleannie View Post
no absolution is not conditional upon performing a penance
In Poland the priest sometimes sends you to the Bishop for confession if it is serious.

Serious doesn't have to mean a state crime but things like abortion, ivf and such.
__________________
"As you see Me in this chalice, so I dwell in your heart." Divine Mercy of Jesus.
Closed Thread

Go Back   Catholic Answers Forums > Forums > Apologetics

Bookmarks

Thread Tools Search Thread
Search Thread:

Advanced Search
Display

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Forum Jump



Prayer Intentions

Most Active Groups
8538Meet and talk,talk talk
Last by: lcuadra
5198CAF Prayer Warriors Support Group
Last by: James_OPL
4433Devotion to the Sorrowful Mother
Last by: DesertSister62
4037OCD/Scrupulosity Group
Last by: eschator83
3869SOLITUDE
Last by: Prairie Rose
3834Let's empty Purgatory
Last by: RJB
3395Petitions Before the Blessed Sacrament
Last by: grateful_child
3300Poems and Reflections
Last by: tonyg
3231Catholic Vegetarians & Vegans
Last by: Rifester
3150For seniors and shut- ins
Last by: flower lady



All times are GMT -7. The time now is 11:46 am.

Home RSS Feeds - Home - Archive - Top

Copyright © 2004-2014, Catholic Answers.