Can A Devout Catholic Arrest His Priest?

The basic question is whether or not a good Catholic in law enforcement can arrest his or her parish priest if their suspected of lawbreaking.

It all comes down to how much deference a lay Catholic owes the religious, and whether or not the same rules apply to priests as everyone else.

For instance, if a Catholic cop found his priest with a murder victim’s body and the murder weapon in his hands, would loyalty to the Church compel the cop to take the priest at his word when he said that he didn’t do it?

Many of the more liberal Catholics on this board will no doubt think that this is a stupid question. That of course when a priest commits a major crime he should be treated like any other criminal.

But I believe that it is relevant. If only because stories leaking out of Ireland and other places were the Church has had close ties to the state, show that in the past priests have considered themselves above the law, and that local authorities have sometimes gone along with this idea.

Absolutely a Catholic cop can and better arrest a priest suspected of a crime. We are still paying for the last “deference” to the clergy regarding criminal matters and likely will continue to pay for a long time to come.


My pastor has not been exempt from getting a speeding ticket.

If they cannot they have NO business being a police officer.

Addressing violations of the State’s laws is, in most instances, the business of the State and not the Church. A police officer takes an oath to uphold the law. He would be breaking that oath if he refused to arrest (or, depending on the nature of the crime, issue a summon to) a priest where there was probable cause to believe that the priest committed a crime. “But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he [the ruler] does not bear the sword in vain; he is the servant of God to execute his wrath on the wrongdoer.” Romans 13:4 (RSV).

I think you’re putting up a bit of a strawman here. You are assuming that in the ‘stories coming out of Ireland etc.’ that because you ‘assert’ (unproven) that priests considered themselves above the law and local authorities ‘went along sometime’ again an unproven ‘remark’ that this somehow meant that the ‘good Catholic’ cop or other authority didn’t ‘do his job’ solely because he placed his ‘Catholicism’ (interpreted by you as kowtowing to the ‘status’ of the priest) above his ‘legal’ responsibilities to perform as an agent of the state.

In fact, what you are doing is promoting a ‘presumption’ that in these places, 'Church and State" were not separate but that “Church” was placed ‘above’ State and that this is a danger for those who are 'overly religious.'

**And I say it’s a strawman. Even if one or more of those who did not, perhaps, pursue justice as thoroughly as they should did so from a misplaced respect, this does not show that this idea is **held by the Church itself, or taught. Furthermore, in placing this as the ONLY ‘reason’ you ignore that there could be many other outside factors contributing to any scenario involving priests accused of civil wrongs.

Perhaps this is due to your personal unease with religious faith itself.

But even ‘angry atheists’ may sometimes ‘act’ in a given scenario from motives that differ quite widely one from another, and which may not be reasonable at all.

Suppose a nice atheist cop came upon a crime scene and found one of his best buddies, a fellow atheist, there in a compromising position. Now, based upon years of ‘reason’ and knowledge of his friend’s character, he pursued ‘other suspects’ instead of his friend.

You wouldn’t go around worrying that ‘atheists give their friends and fellow atheists preferential treatment because the atheism they share is more important than their roles in justice’, would you? Why not, when in the case of a Catholic cop/priest, you WOULD worry?

As Catholics we owe our Priests our utmost respect as without them we would not have the Eucharist, however this does not in any way imply we owe them a blind eye or a turned head. The rules apply to all.

It might influence the way that the Priest is detained for questioning or arrested but if you are implying that the cop just says “Well now Father, just wipe that gun off with me’ hanky and go about your business” you would be wrong.

Many of the more conservative ones as well. :wink:

I am not sure I have seen these, can you slip us a link or two? Not saying it does not happen as we are all human and sinners - just looking to see what you are driving at.

If we’re going to reference Ireland i will point out that there was a confusion of loyalties by some Garda Siochana officers some who have been investigated and some who still are (those still living anyway)

In certain situations although it is unpleasant and hard to admit the state and Church did become confused and the latter was placed above the former’s interests. Some Garda would seem to have acted in appropriate manners which compromise the oaths they took when taking up their roles:-

Yes, it is true this ‘sometimes’ happened.

But I submit that Angry Atheist is taking a complex situation and trying to make it into a case where the only, or the ‘overwhelming’ factor was a purely religious one. Ireland, certainly, is a State which is historically very ‘tied into’ religious belief (Catholicism), far more than the U.S. That being the case, there is much more to any given person’s ‘response’ than a simplistic, “Oh, priest equals God therefore I will not even TRY to accuse him because that ‘religious status’ is so much more important than justice”.

I am fairly confident that there were other issues involved. Greed for power (hmmm, I’ll ‘look the other way’, not because I’m Catholic, but because this way the priest will do me favors’) Greed for ‘status’ (OK, Father, we’ll do each other favors, you’ll make sure my family gets the best ‘position’ among the villagers). Etc. That really isn’t ‘religion’ at all, is it?

In fact, you might even find the occasional secret anti-Catholic Catholic who will ‘go along’ with hiding evidence etc. not because he ‘worships’ the priest, but because he thinks, “When this DOES break, it’s going to look even worse for the priests and the Church than it was, because it will be a cover up on top of sin”. IOW, there were probably SOME people who worked pretty hard to ‘let people off’ not because they ‘honored’ the Church, but because in fact they wanted to 'take her down."

Very much YES. I suspect the Catholic cop may very well be uncomfortable, but he would have not just the ability but the DUTY to do so.

Conservative here, think it’s a stupid question. (As in the answer is obvious, not as in it’s not worth asking.)

I do think it worth pointing out that in some areas of the world, law enforcement is less… benign than in the U.S., Ireland, etc. So if you read that a Bishop down in some random dictatorship known for kidnapping and torture is lukewarm on cooperation with civil authority, take his situation into account.

Yes. Thoroughly, unequivocally. Priests are only special due to their relationship with Christ. Assuming the guilt of a priest, there are two possibilities.

*]If a priest is guilty of a crime by behaving amorally, he has severed his relationship with Christ, and a Catholic cop should have no moral crisis in arresting him.
*]If a priest is guilty of a crime but one committed by behaving morally, the priest has not severed this relationship. This is the more interesting case. To what extent should a Catholic who is sworn to defend the law disobey an unjust law?

As a Trinitarian Catholic, I agree that this is a simple question. I won’t fall into the trap of calling it stupid, though, because only you and God know whether or not whether you came by it honestly. I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt, though God, being the Truth, doesn’t have to.

Reminds me of the case of Thomas Becket, thought I’ve only seen the movie. I know back then things were different, so could a user more knowledgable on the topic that Wikipedia let us know: When did the Church renounce or at least remit the power to discipline Her priests? Especially in light of the recent scandals, I know, the Church in America allows if not requires the state to exercise police power over Her clerics.

There are several occasions throughout history of the Church, embroiled in temporal authority, found Herself with men who would abuse that authority, i.e. the Borgias, etc. Very rightfully so, this is a reason the Church renders unto Ceasar his rightful police power.

Yes. A policeman takes an oath to uphold the law. He can arrest his CO if the CO breaks the law. There’s supposed to be no exceptions. I know of one patrolman that had to arrest his brother for breaking the law.

PAX DOMINI :signofcross:

Shalom Aleichem

A tendency I have noticed among the extremely religious is that they tend to think of science and atheism as rival religions. They are not.

Science is the opposite of religion and atheism is simply a denial of religion, the occult, and all forms of belief in the supernatural (at least until evidence for them can be provided).

An atheist cop would have no more reason to go easy on me because were both atheists than a Christian cop would because both he and I were males.

Catholicism (and the other powerful well established religions) is quite different.

The idea of there being one set of rules for the clergy and one set of rules for the laity is not new. Nor is the idea that priests are above the law.

We now know that the Irish priests commonly tried to cover it up and keep anyone from going to the police when one of their own sexually abused someone. And that Irish police commonly dismissed allegations the few times that someone told them that a priest had acted inappropriately towards them or their child.

This has been confirmed by government investigations in Ireland such as the Ryan Report and the Murphy Report. As mentioned in this news article:,8599,1974115,00.html

On the contrary.

Religion often has a lot to do with status, power, and an individual’s place in a class system. As the Hindu caste system and similar institutions prove.

In my children’s early 1960’s catechism, it specifrically states that Catholics should *not *be given preferential treatment by Catholics simply because they are Catholic, because that is unfair, which of course we are enjoined not to be.

Even in the case of a priest suspected of a crime, the Catholic must still arrest him. The fact that he is a priest is separate from the fact that he is also a human being, and that if guilty he has sullied the priesthood. In that case, it would not be the police officer acting disrespectfully to the priest, but the guilty priest himself.

Do the same rules apply to Bishops and other high ranking members of the hierarchy?

Obviously the Pope is a special case, but what about the other Bishops?
Or the Cardinals?

This I disagree with almost entirely. First, I am both religious and a scientist of sorts (getting PhD in mathematics, and I have BS in physics), and have not found that my religion is the opposite of science at all.

I do tend to think of atheism as a quasi-religion as it leads to a certain world view based on certain assumptions. But anyway:

Same for two Christians. My father worked with the city government where I grew up and hence I’ve met a reasonable number of cops. All of those who’s religion I knew were some flavor of Christian, none would have hesitated to arrest a fellow Christian (a large portion of the city).

Misbehavior by those who misbehaved is not part of our religion, it is part of the tendency of humans to do bad stuff occasionally, and try to get away with it. It is opposed to our religion. These people were sinning. They were wrong. If we take our religion as true, their actions were opposed to the truth and hence illogical.

The fact that many people of our faith behaved badly no more implies that these behaviors are built into our beliefs than the fact that many of the the murdering dictators were/are atheists implies that a tendency to murder people is a logical consequence of atheism.

The rules apply to the Bishops as well.

Just to be sure we are on the same page, when you speak of " other high ranking members of the hierarchy" you don’t technically equate that to a Cardinal. A Cardinal is simply a title - Cardinals can be Bishops or Priests (or even laymen if I am not mistaken but I may be).

What I assume you mean here above Bishops would be heads of the various pontifical councils, etc. at the Vatican, the Vatican Secretary of State, The Papal Nuncio, etc? Although they are also to be held to the secular law by other Catholics, remember that some of them are diplomats of Vatican City, and as such may have diplomatic immunity under international treaty.

As to the Pope. First, the Pope is not immune to the laws of the secular world because he is the Pope. He is however also the head of a sovereign state and as such also has a degree of diplomatic immunity.

Does that get to the question you are asking?

Can we just arrest priests for pushing evolution back thousands of years?

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