I refer to this recent news: Anglican priests freed to report serious crimes, including child abuse
My historical and Catholic senses were alarmed by the following…
*Anglican priests will no longer be bound by **the 1000-year-old convention of confidentiality in confessions *when they are told of serious crimes, including child abuse.
The implication is that the Seal of the Confessional is “only” 1000 years old.
Gratian, who compiled the edicts of previous Catholic Ecumenical Councils and the principles of church law, published the Decretum about 1151. It includes the following declaration of the law as to the seal of confession: “Let the priest who dares to make known the sins of his penitent be deposed.” Gratian goes on to say that the violator of this law should be made a lifelong, ignominious wanderer.(Secunda pars, dist. VI, c. II)
This little bit of history (which may be what the author of the news referred to!) seems to be the basis of the claim that the Seal of the Confessional is a “convention” which is “1000 years old”.
The obvious response is that the fact that the first recorded law is in 1151 is no evidence that the principal and practice is not much older.
Again from Wikipedia:
Notably, neither this canon nor the law of the Decretum purports to enact for the first time the secrecy of confession.
I’ve done some googling and found surprisingly little information.
I can just mention a little that I have learned previously, which is: In the early Church there was some public confession of sins. This was, however, for sins that were already publicly known, such as apostosy and, say, public indescretions. We believe (know?) that private confession also dates to the early Church.
I am willing to conjecture that private confession, and the Seal of the Confessional, is, in fact, of Apostolic origin, even if that can’t be proven. I suspect that there is no evidence that it was "introduced’ in 1151, or 900, or at 400, or any other time.
The 15th century English canonist William Lyndwood speaks of two reasons why a priest is bound to keep secret a confession, the first being on account of the sacrament because** it is almost (quasi) of the essence of the sacrament to keep secret the confession**. (emphasis added).
Any thoughts, or, preferably, information?