Seal of a confession

Does anyone know of real-life stories within the last century or so of maintaining the secret of the confessional a la Hitchcock’s “I confess”?

I vaguely remember hearing something in high school about a case in Baltimore where a priest was put on the stand, refused to speak, and went to jail.

Sorry that I don’t remember much else. All I cared about in High School was reading and baseball…not much has changed! :o

That’s almost impossible, since of course a priest accused of murder who knew who the murderer was because of a disclosure by the murderer in a sacramental confession could never say so. Even if it were very similar to the Hitchcock movie, that is, even if the murderer disclosed his guilt by publicly making a false accusation against the priest of breaking the seal, the priest couldn’t confirm that he had heard the confession.

There was a recent case in which a confession heard in the Lane County Jail by Fr. Timothy Mockaitis of the Archdiocese of Portland was recorded without the priest’s knowledge. The penititent had been accused of murder, and members of the district attorney’s office listened to the recording. The Church sued to have the recording destroyed, on the grounds that its existence was a violation of the First Amendment rights of Fr. Mockaitis.

Fr. Mockaitis wrote a book about the ordeal, which he titled “The Seal.” You can also get the story by looking up comments on the case, Mockaitis v. Harcleroad, which may be found on the internet.

I haven’t seen the movie, but how is this even possible? The prosecutor would have to prove that the priest heard the person’s confession, the priest knew who was confessing, and then that the penitent confessed to the crime. And if they can prove the last point, then they don’t need the priest’s testimony.

FWIW, the Hitchcock movie doesn’t involve a priest being brought to court to testify against someone else. In the movie, the priest hears the confession of a murderer and then becomes a suspect in the murder himself. The seal of confession makes him unable to say much in his own defense.

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