Bold words from Enda, but should they mark the end of the confessional?

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 Enda Kenny’s quiet bombshell of a speech on the Cloyne report leaves more questions open than answered. This point may be written off as the opinion of implacable enemies of the Church who will never be satisfied. That would be a mistake. The taoiseach may have attacked the gimlet eyed legalism of the Vatican’s provisional response to the report. But he has been forced to acknowledge the limited justice of Vatican spokesman Fr Lombardi’s reply in terms, asking where was the Irish State when Rome was at least acknowledging gaps in canon law and their own procedures.    

Mr Kenny has announced two pieces of legislation – firstly, to make it an offence to withhold information relating to crimes against children and vulnerable adults; and secondly, at long last, to allow for the exchange of ‘soft information’ on abusers.

 Rather than breaking new ground, I assume these underscore existing legal obligations and formally bring the priestly function under the purview of the State. But do they override the secrecy of the confessional in relevant circumstances?  In those circumstances what would an Irish court decide? Are we liable to witness before long the mother and father of all clashes of conscience?    Similarly, can  church leaders be required  to disclose hitherto privileged exchanges with each other and the Vatican? Without  such requirements, what is the real substance and sanction  of the proposed new laws?     

The taoiseach has issued a barely veiled challenge to the Pope personally.

Cardinal Josef Ratzinger said “Standards of conduct appropriate to civil society or the workings of a democracy cannot be purely and simply applied to the Church.”

As the Holy See prepares its considered response to the Cloyne Report, as Taoiseach, I am making it absolutely clear, that when it comes to the protection of the children of this State, the standards of conduct which the Church deems appropriate to itself, cannot and will not, be applied to the workings of democracy and civil society in this republic.

Brave words. And yet he still  appears ot be leaving it up to the Church to comply. After three  reports with more to come, is this enough?  Surely the time is overdue for the Irish State to take full charge of the supervision of the lives of its own children rather than delegate it to a supranational body which has demonstrated its institutional unsuitability for the role.  Let  individual Church people and qualified sections of it  become branches of an Irish Big Society, if they  have the skills and can locally demonstrate their mission. But remove the institution from any say.

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  • Into the west

    the grim story of Ireland
    conquest, persecution,penal laws, imperialistic slavery
    only to be replaced by bondage to Rome and Brussels.
    no wonder we drink so much, to escape the misery of our chains.

    was that fella Bill right ( gangs of New York )
    “On the seventh day the Lord rested, but before that he did,
    he squatted over the side of England and what came out of him… was Ireland.
    No offense son”

  • streetlegal

    The Papal Noncio?

  • Rory Carr

    I doubt very much that the new legislation designed to “make it an offence to withhold information relating to crimes against children and vulnerable adults” will “override the secrecy of the confessional in relevant circumstances” nor am I convinced that it should or indeed that if it did it would be at all effective.

    This is because, firstly, the priest would be bound to the secrecy of the confessional seal by virtue of his sacred office and secondly, and perhaps more relevantly, it is highly unlikely that one who has transgressed against the vulnerable would seek the solace of the confessional were he not guaranteed absolute secrecy.

    Since we must assume that those who would attend at the sacrament of penance (as the confessional is more formally known) would be motivated by a measure of contrition for their actions and at least attempting to come to a firm resolution not to repeat these actions and having a determination to make amends for the wrong he has done (all of which are mandatory prerequisites to receiving absolution) then we might agree that the availability of such a service is to be desired more especially if it provides the priest confessor the opportunity to urge the penitent to surrender himself to the appropriate authorities. It might perhaps even be made a condition of receiving absolution that he complies with this counsel so that it effectively becomes a demand. For the state however to insist upon the confessional seal being broken would preclude all that.

    I realise that there are those who have a crude (and sometimes wilful) misunderstanding of how the confessional works believing (or choosing to believe) that the penitent simply recites a list of wrongdoings to the priest who then imposes a penance in the form of the recitation of a few Hail Marys, then intones an absolution which frees up the sinner to carry on his merry way in the same old pattern of misbehaviour until the next confession. They should pay attention to the actual process as I have spelled out above.

    The confessional, properly used, including under a holy seal of absolute secrecy has long been recognised by psychiatry as one of the great spiritual and pyschological tools available to man and it would be a great mistake to attempt to interfere with its time honoured tradition of repentance and healing by the state knee-jerking at its own tardiness and complicity in the abuse of the vulnerable children of Ireland.

    While I am happy to debate my above thoughts with other contributors I shall not be responding to those who come at it simply from an anti-Catholic agenda although I will be willing to answer honest questions from those who are genuinely concerned to undersatnd the confessional process more clearly.

    I must add that I have not been a practicising Catholic for almost 50 years ( a mere millisecond in Church terms), so please do not hold the Church responsible for anything that I get wrong – she has enough trouble on her plate.

  • Alias

    “Brave words. And yet he still appears ot be leaving it up to the Church to comply. After three reports with more to come, is this enough? Surely the time is overdue for the Irish State to take full charge of the supervision of the lives of its own children rather than delegate it to a supranational body which has demonstrated its institutional unsuitability for the role. Let individual Church people and qualified sections of it become branches of an Irish Big Society, if they have the skills and can locally demonstrate their mission. But remove the institution from any say. ”

    Excellent conclusion, Brian. Control, once derogated from the state, is lost to the state.

  • http://[email protected] joeCanuck

    Rory,

    Interesting thoughts. When I was a child, I did feel mentally refreshed, greatly, after confession. And yes, I genuinely was repentant yet, deep down, I knew that I would be doing blindness precursors the following week.

  • Alias

    Rory, can you think of a practical example that would satisfy a court where it could be proven that a priest did withhold ‘evidence’ that he had acquired in a confessional? I can’t. At worst, it comes down to a guilty person’s word against the word of a priest. There is no way to enforce such a law, so it is an example of the law making an ass out of itself – or, rather, GF making an ass out of it.

  • http://[email protected] joeCanuck

    Alias,

    It may not be a case of a court case against the priest but a priest who follows civil law and alerts the police to a potential offender whom they should keep an eye on.

  • Alias

    Joe, a priest who betrays the sanctity of the confessional? How does that work? He wouldn’t be a priest if he didn’t uphold his particular doctrine. Sorry, but not a single priest will abide by that law. I refer you to the French who are currently prosecuting Bishop Pierre Pican for failing to report crimes to the authorities that he became aware of in the confessional. Of course, he said he became aware of them and thereby incriminated himself.

    As I understand it, confession and absolution only applies to past sins, so if a priest learned of a planned crime that had not been comitted yet, then I don’t see how that would contradict Catholic doctrine as it, rather obviously, couldn’t be absolved if it hadn’t yet been committed.

  • http://[email protected] joeCanuck

    No Alias,

    I don’t expect any priest to break the seal nor do I anticipate any prosecutions. it doesn’t mean that the State should not express its disapproval through the enaction of A LAW; IT WOULD MAKE CLEAR TO THE POPULACE THAT THE STATE DOES OVERRIDE THE cHURCH.
    I KNOW A LITTLE ABOUT THE SITUATION (OOPS, SORRY FOR UNINTENTIONALLY SHOUTING).
    My wife works in a profession where it is illegal for her not to report suspected child abuse in any form. She has reported a few times and it has left her upset for days on end. Being honourable, she has always told the main caregiver that she is going to report. It has always meant an end to the relationship with the caregiver.

  • wee buns

    What Enda needs to do is grow a spine around this issue, by creating new whistle blower legislation.

    This should cover all breeds and creeds from public servants to clergy, to the man/woman/child on the street.
    The British law covers blowing the whistle when in the public interest.
    The Public Interest Disclosure Act in Ireland currently only applies to workers in the HSE – introduced in ’98 following the abuse of surgical procedures, hysterectomies or possibly organs scandal – can’t recall which particular butchery it was.

    Cherish the children Enda. Do what you are paid to do: legislate.

  • wee buns

    Correction to above, not every child would be directly protected, but meaning by enabling employees from all walks of life to disclose, children would be better served.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_Interest_Disclosure_Act_1998

  • gréagóir o frainclín

    For a time the Catholic Church were in cahoots with the British establishment controlling the Irish people, hence the likes of Maynooth being granted permision to be built whilst Protestant England ruled Ireland. The Vatican struck a deal with the English – the English overlords could have the flesh and bones of the Irish, the Catholic Church could have their minds and souls.

    Too bad Irish folk never realised this as they were too engrossed with all the rigmarole and trappings of rosary beads, mawkish paintings and statues etc… Too bad a broken people, could never amount to anything to rid the oppressors….but instead, romanticized such idealogical notions in ballad and song! Is it any wonder why we are where we are today.

    BTW, Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man sold the most copies in Ireland…but was probably used to light the fire in the grate instead of the mind!

  • Alias

    Joe, I agree with you in principle, but law is designed to be enforced. Designing a law that is not enforceable is simply farce.

    If the purpose is, as you say, to make a political statement of intent, then that is best served by making a political statement containing the intention, and not by making a law.

  • Reader

    Surely there are a number of professions that claim some sort of legal or customary protection from the usual laws on Conspiracy, Accessory or Witholding information – Lawyer, Journalist, Health Professionals and Clerics of at least one Religious denomination.
    The simple thing to do would be to codify the legal exemptions and relaxations in one place and have that argument in the Dail.
    Key words for the debate: Jedi, Sharia, Confession, Percentage of the Gross and Pastafarian.

  • Rory Carr

    Alias,

    I agree completely that, given that the priest is compelled by his office to secrecy and an unwilling abuser so compelled by self-interest, short of bugging the confessional, such a law is unenforceable.

    The Taoiseach, good Catholic boy that he was (and surely remains), is as aware of this as you and I and indeed as is any aware Catholic citizen of the Republic so it is that I say that it is most unlikely that any attempt will be made for the new legislation to oblige a priest to break the confessional seal.

  • tuatha

    And therein lies the problem, superstitious BS will remain above and beyond the law, like any privileged class so long as people allow fatcats, corrupt pollies, sleazy celebs and bribe taking cops to swagger down the street without being lynched.
    Who cares what some people believe the Great Flying Spaghetti Monster decrees? If some think they have to slam the car door on their fingers thrice a day, well tuff shite.
    When they insist that their kids do it, and that idiocy prevails in legislation, such that I have to pay taxes to mend broken fingers & spirits, then I have a BIG problem.
    There is no such thing as religious freedom – all religion is about OBEDIENCE, to whom/what is less relevant than the fact that a supposedly sentient human being cedes responsibility for their personal actions.
    All religions can’t be right but they CAN (I’d suggest ARE) all wrong.

  • Rory Carr

    Now that you’ve got all that off your chest would you care to address the topic, Tuatha?

  • http://[email protected] joeCanuck

    Rory,

    It depends on how they word the legislation. They may simply say that if a person is aware of or has reason to suspect a child is being abused, they must report it to the appropriate authorities. Failure to do so is a criminal offence.
    It would then be up to the conscience of a priest whether to follow the civil law.
    I don’t expect a priest to break the seal nor can I foresee any possibility of an offence being prosecuted as a result of confession. But, as I mentioned above, in Canada certain workers are required by law to report if they suspect that a child is endangered. It goes beyond abuse.

  • http://[email protected] joeCanuck

    The importance of the legislation would be that Bishops who become aware of abuse, other than through confession, would be required to report it. The behaviour of some or many Bishops has been disgraceful and prosecutions should be launched right now.

  • Rory Carr

    I had thought, Joe, that a bishop who had learned of an offence against a child other than through the confessional was already bound by law to report it to the police. Is it not the failure of bishops to so alert the authorities over the conduct of offending priests that is what has caused all the anger?

    As to a priest wighing up whether or not to break the confessional seal in order to comply with the law of the land as a matter of conscience – I am quite sure that where the civil law is in conflict with his priestly vows the priest would always choose to disregard the law. At least I would hope so – he wouldn’t be much of a priest otherwise and he would be pretty short of parishoners once he gained a reputation for breaching confessional confidentiality. You might say that his people would understand it because the welfare of a child was involved but what husband or wife would ever feel confident thereafter to confess their infidelity to him, or what employee his pilferage from work or employer his unjust exploitation of his workers ( a confessional rarity I would accept) ?

    And in any case it is not his job to act as a policeman but rather to bring the penitent to acknowledge his wrongdoing, to have him desist from further wrong action and to make amends to those he has injured and to do penance in order to gain humility. Admittedly it does not always work but then neither does the penal system or psychatric counseliing, but we do not not judge them usless because sometimes they do work and the policeman, the judge, the prison warder and the psychiatric doctor and nurse must be applauded for their efforts. But so too must the good and worthy priest who uses the confessional as the great aid it can be to bring a sick and troubled wrongdoer to the realisation of his actions and amendment of his ways. But for it to have any hope whatsoever the confessional must be protected in law from any attempt to break its sacred seal of confidentiality.

  • Rory Carr

    Typo: “weighing up” not “wighing up” at beginning of 2nd para.

    Apologies.

  • Greenflag

    @ Rory,

    ‘But for it to have any hope whatsoever the confessional must be protected in law from any attempt to break its sacred seal of confidentiality.’

    As you put it above the ‘confessional’ does not always work with the sick and troubled but then neither does the penal system nor psychotherapy -there are some who would hazard that ‘confession’ is the poor man or perhaps clever man’s ersatz for expensive therapies on couches in well appointed shrinks room’s -a more comfortable and less intimidatory surround than in the narrow confines of a dark box a gauzed screen and exposed in a penitential kneeling position .

    The difference is that the penal system and the psychotherapists couch and what takes place within and on them are governed and accountable to the civil law -whereas canon law dictates what takes place in and outside the confessional box at least in terms of confidentiality . Confidentiality as regards any psychotherapist’s patient’s condition does not extend beyond the point at which that patient becomes a criminal danger to themselves or others I would think .

    We are back to rendering that which is Caesars to Caesar and that which is ‘God’s ‘ to God or at least his/her/its earthly representatives . But in a society where the numbers attending confession and church are ever declining it probably does not make any sense to attempt to interfere with the ‘confessional ‘ per se but any cleric who is found to have known and done nothing in cases where serious abuse or crime has been committed ought to face prosecution under civil law . The laws of the republic have to be seen to supercede those of any religion or denominational practice otherwise we have no business in calling ourselves a ‘republic’ imo.

    The RC Church is effectively a state within a state which is not a major issue except in those countries like Ireland and formerly Spain and pre revolutionary France etc were it was for long periods of history much better organised and administered than the states themselves.

  • Rory Carr

    Greenflag,

    When you say, “any cleric who is found to have known and done nothing in cases where serious abuse or crime has been committed ought to face prosecution under civil law “, do you mean that where a priest has had a penitent tell him under seal of the confessional of his having committed acts in breach of the criminal code then that priest should be liable to prosecution if he does not subsequently inform the police of the details of the confession?

    If that is what you do intend then I have to say that it is perfectly outrageous. Are you seriously suggesting that a priest should be criminalised for holding faith with his sacred duty? It would be like reintroducing the Penal Laws. Besides, as Alias and I have both pointed out, such a law would be unenforceable. Firstly it is most unlikely that, short of bugging the confession box (you are not suggesting the police do that surely?), it would be almost impossible to know, let alone prove, guilt on either the priest’s or the penitent’s part and secondly, in the unlikely event that the police believed that the priest had received such confession, he could not be made to reveal it (you are not suggesting torture or some kind of clerical Guantanamo are you?).

    There is too much being made of a non-existent evidentiary value of confession and it is I believe fuelled by a strong whiff of knee-jerk anti-clericalism. While understandable in the circumstances – especially given the bishops’ concealment of wrondoing by clerics (hence, I suggest the misguided demonisation of the confessional) – is no less ugly for that and which besides, would penalise not only the many, many excellent good and kind clergy within Ireland who have served their flock faithfully and well but also those (still) great numbers of devout practising Catholics within the state who are entitled to practice their faith without suffering the persecution of those who no longer adhere to that faith and now feel that for fashion’s sake they must condemn it.

    It is little more than bullying in the form of intellectual arrogance and it is just as ugly as the bullying that pietistic Pioneers, ardent altar-eaters and mad missionaries inflicted upon those of us who questioned both their values and their intent back in the day. I am sure that you would not wish to be part of it.

  • Reader

    Rory Carr: ,It would be like reintroducing the Penal Laws.
    How is a law that treats everyone equally and give no special privileges ‘like reintroducing the Penal Laws”?

  • Rory Carr

    May I take the opportunity of directing readers of this thread to a book review in the New York Times of two books of investigation into church finances, the first into the Church (sic) of Scientology and the second into the Roman Catholic Church.

    I was so shocked to learn in the review of the first book that Bart Simpson (in the guise of his actor voice-over, Nancy Cartwright) had donated $10million to the Church (sic) of Scientology that I almost failed to read on. But I eventually recovered and learned (in the penultimate paragraph on page 4) that Cardinal Ratzinger took the opportunity to be more proactive in taking action against at least one eminently senior church dignitary known to be a serial abuser of children once (the sainted) Pope John Paul II, under whose favour and protection this monster had thrived, shuffled off to the big, big chair in the sky. This revelation cuts across and somewhat contradicts the contrasting images we have of JP !! and his successor, Benedict XVI.

    Read reviews here:

    http://tinyurl.com/3f5rf7h

  • Rory Carr

    Reader,

    In reply tp your question – It would be like reintroducing the Penal Laws because it would attempt to criminalise priests for doing their duty in rendering a sacrament to their flock.

  • Reader

    Rory Carr: It would be like reintroducing the Penal Laws because it would attempt to criminalise priests for doing their duty in rendering a sacrament to their flock.
    Scientologist whatchamacallits presumably also have duties to their flocks. Do you think they should be excused obedience to the law while doing their duty? Or does your logic only apply within a shortlist of religions and denominations?

  • Rory Carr

    NO, reader, I do not think that Scientologists “should be excused obedience to the law while doing their duty” since the only duty that I believe Scientology has is not safe to mention on this site without fear of legal action from this most litigious of cults. So in that respect it would be true that, as you say, my “logic only apply within a shortlist of religions and denominations”.

    But that is true only if it were a question of logic, which it most certainly is not – it is a matter of my intelligently guided bias and one which I am more than prepared to defend.

  • Reader

    Rory Carr: …it would be true that, as you say, my “logic only apply within a shortlist of religions and denominations”.
    Same shortlist for every Republic, or a different shortlist for each?
    And, either way, what shortlist would you present to the Dáil?

  • tuatha

    Rory – I thought that the topic was the immunity the religious establishments claim, and have ceded to them.
    End of religious privilege, they’re no more relevant than a pigeon fanciers clubs (albeit a big one). They are free to practice their peculiar ideas but not enforce them on children nor have any other privilege, esp NOT tax exemptions – council rates on the various churches’ land holdings would do wonders for many a hard pressed local authority.

  • abucs

    It gets to the stage where there is so much idiotic drivel, unrepresentative bias and blatant prejudice against the Church that it becomes not worth responding to and it is better to let bigotted morons go their own way.

    This thread certainly fits that bill.

  • Rory Carr

    I am not arguing for any claim to immunity from the law. It is simply that any attempt to legislate the state’s will to break the confessional seal would be unenforceable for all the reasons I have advanced and further, that any cack-handed attempt to so legislate would only incur the ire of decent Catholics who comprise a great majority within the state. Indeed were such legislation capable of having any success it would do great harm to a religious practice that has brought and continues to bring great solace to those who rightly seek it.

  • Greenflag

    @Rory,

    Canon law cannot be seen to supercede Civil Law regardless of the priest’s sacramental duty -thats between him and his God (his beliefs and his parishoner in the confession box) . The same standard has to be applicable for those those of other denominations or faiths where their particular religion hinders the civil authorities in their conviction of a wanted criminal .

    I’m not a knee jerk anti clericalist far from it and I did point out that prosecution should be for serious abuse crimes and serious crime such as murder and kidnapping .
    and I’d add murder.

    That would not affect 99.999999999999% of what passes between priest and confessor in the box.

    I’m sure you are along with myself and virtually everybody else shocked at the horrific murders that happened in Norway by a person who has been described as a right wing Christian fundamentalist among other attributes . Now imagine if this individual had been a Catholic and had not been caught and had in a fit of remorse later confessed his crime to a priest ?

    Again the civil law has to supercede Canon law for the RC Church and the laws of any other religions out there regardless of their denomination or cultural practices . We do not tolerate ‘female circumcision ‘ or sharia law in the west when it contravenes our civil law and the same should apply to the RC Church’s canon laws .

    Outrageous ? Not at all.

  • http://[email protected] joeCanuck

    abucs,

    I have gone back and read all of the comments on this thread. Most of it is reasoned argument and most certainly does not befit your overegging of the pudding in your 12:40 comment.

  • wee buns

    By Greenflag:

    ‘The civil law has to supersede Canon law for the RC Church and the laws of any other religions out there regardless of their denomination or cultural practices.

    Completely agree: otherwise it’s exemption.
    IF that means an alteration to confession – the church will simply have to adapt if it wants to survive. Endemic abuse from fear & obedience is one thing. To be assisted/allowed by the government by avaiing of what are in effect legal loopholes under the remit of ‘sacredness’ leaves the government equally as morally culpable of aiding and abetting abuse. This is exactly what FG is trying to separate itself from, and the very best of luck to them.

    Rory
    Why should the confessional confidentiality be any more sacred or precious than the confidentiality of say common friendship? Or a client/patient relationship, which can be subpoenaed? As far as I know priests are not subject to subpoena, but myabe I’m wrong.

    On a more general note, there has existed a sort of cultural aversion to spilling the beans which probably is rooted in past oppressions and concomitant secretive resistance. This too is changing and good to see Transparency Ireland make ground with their helpline for whistle blowing.
    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/breaking/2011/0526/breaking45.html

    @ Abucs
    Please do us the courtesy of pointing out what content you feel is bigoted then maybe it may be fairly addressed.

  • Taoiseach

    Attempts by this anti-Catholic government to destroy the seal of the confessional will almost certainly be in breach of the Constitution and the European Convention. It’s not a question of special exemptions, it’s the fundamental right to freedom of religion in belief and practice.

    Children do not belong to the State as some commentator said, if they belong to anyone it’s their parents.

    The State may think it is absolute (standard Blue Shirt ideology) but conscience and the natural law are always higher.

    Not Catholic priest will obey this law if it is introduced – this needs to be made crytsal clear lest there be any doubt in the mind of the faithful.

    As for Kenny’s claims to be a good Catholic – this would be the man who didn’t bother going to Mass on Ash Wednesday, who didn’t go to Mass on St Patrick’s Day, and who voted to bring in homosexual civil partnerships. Another lie to add to his Roscommon lies.

  • Nunoftheabove

    Taoiseach

    It’s a straightforward choice between strong state, weak church or vice versa. The catholic church has shown itself to be overwhelmingly untrustworthy on anything pertaining to the safety and welfare of children to the point where it must never, ever be allowed an opportunity to regain anything like a position of trust. That trust is gone and will never return and in a decent society will never be given a sporting chance of ever returning.
    The state is in some sense a bulwark between child safety and clerical rape. The state has responsibilities to its citizens whether they’re catholic or not too and the safety of children is a decent principle, indoctrinating innocent children into the sinister superstitions of religion is not. If parents want to poison the minds of their own youngsters with this stuff then regrettably that’s their choice. It’s not the responsibility of the state to pay for an education system which reflects that poison. If parents want that, they can pay for it themselves outside of the public schoolyard.

    If you want a situation in which the parents of children in effect sign disclaimers about the safety and mental wellbeing of their children before they go into direct contact with priests in the confessional or other situations then the state may well have a right to insist on that if the parents are in effect waiving the protection of the state (and themselves)with respect to child-cleric contact. Most responsible parents won’t be so daft as to take the risk.

  • Rory Carr

    Kevin Myers raises an interesting point on the protection of (or, more precisely, failure to protect) children from harm done to them by religious practice:

    …is it acceptable to have a rigorously-enforced state law over children and Catholic priests, but not one concerning Jewish babies and rabbis? How, otherwise, would the rabbinical removal of a baby boy’s foreskin, a deed that by definition involves a non-consensual and irreversible injury and which results in a permanent reduction of the sexual-sensitivity of the glans, be allowed under the proposed new child-protection laws?

    You no doubt find these questions uncomfortable; well, believe me, not nearly as uncomfortable as I do in asking them. And I genuinely do not even begin to think that I know the answers. I suspect you don’t either. In which case, do not pass laws on such matters in the first place.

    Irish Independent 19 July 2011

    Which indicates that he at least hs done some thinking on the subject which is a lot more than can be said for those knee-jerk reactionaries who propose the completely unworkable criminalistaion of priests for upholding the confessional seal.

    At least there would be clear evidence to support a charge against a rabbi under such laws which would not be the case where a priest simply failed to comply with any law ompelling him to reveal confessional secrets. Who would or could possibly know what was said to the priest in confession in order to bring a charge in the first place?

    Duh! Hadn’t thought of that, had we?

  • wee buns

    As I already said Rory, the type of legislation needed is one that protects civil liberties across the board, rather than one that pointedly restricts religious liberty, so that anyone person who becomes aware of serious wrongdoings within an organization is free to report that in the confidence that the victims (and indeed the reporter themselves) shall receive protection and proper hearing, under the umbrella of being ‘in the public interest’.

    Governments of course don’t like such wide reaching legislation on the grounds that it threatens state ‘security’ – read as- it’s harder for the state to subsequently employ secret machinations.

    Enda is trying to wash the state’s hands here by harnessing culpability entirely onto the church but as this TEST CASE shows, wheels have already begun to move on that score:

    ‘The European Court of Human rights has moved a step closer to launching a full hearing into a Cork woman’s appeal against a ruling that the state was not legally liable for the sexual abuse she suffered at the hands of a primary school teacher.

    …a ruling by the ECHR could have major cost implications for the state as it is being regarded as a test case by hundreds of others who were abused while being at school.

    The ECHR has now asked the government to provide detail about the number of primary schools in Ireland in 1973, including the ones that operated under religious patronage. The court also sought details for primary education options available to parents in 1973.

    Critically the ECHR has requested details of the ‘precise mechanisms, safeguards and procedures’ which were in place to ensure that any complaints of ill treatment, including sexual abuse reported by school managers, were acted upon by the Department of Education.’

    http://clericalwhispers.blogspot.com/2011/04/court-closer-to-hearing-in-school-abuse.html

  • wee buns

    Circumcision of a babe is an act of violence which is on a par with routine vaccination of newborns by the main medical cult. The latter incidentally is legally compulsory in the US unless exemption is sought on grounds of religious liberty, ironically.

    As long as the choice remains with parents, as it does here still, then civil liberties can be said to be in place. Currently the most aggressive steps taken are not from the church, but from the so called ‘medical’ profession which seeks to force it’s will through court in instances of disagreement between themselves and parents about the humane treatment of unwell children.

  • Greenflag

    taoiseach ,

    It’s not 1937 anymore .

    ‘Children do not belong to the State as some commentator said, if they belong to anyone it’s their parents.’

    I note your ‘If ‘in the if they belong to anyone .There is a legal age at which children become adults and an age at which people can be held legally liable for criminal deeds . Why should priests or any religious practitioner of any faith be ‘above’ the civil law ? Religious practitioners can believe whatever they want to believe about their God, or Allah , or Yahweh or Jehovah and their Canon and Sharia laws but they had better get their ‘boss’ to appear in the witness stand to give evidence in their favour if they are being charged otherwise they will be found guilty just like any other citizen would .

    Religious practitioners no more than politicians or banksters or policemen or anybody else cannot be seen to be above the law . For we have seen what happens when the ‘powerful’ in society are seen to be above reproach . Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely which is what sparked the first Reformation , the French Revolution , and the Russian Revolution just three examples .

    ‘The State may think it is absolute (standard Blue Shirt ideology) but conscience and the natural law are always higher.’

    Your reference to Blueshirt is histrionic and it ignores the basic fact that the RC Church hierarchy in Ireland , and everywhere else in Europe did not oppose the ‘Blueshirts’/brownshirts or blackshirts and in fact gave said Blueshirts their blessing . Go read up on your Cardinal MacRory and general O’Duffy

    ‘Conscience and natural law ‘

    The use of the word ‘conscience ‘ in any debate concerning the Roman Catholic hierarchy either in Ireland or the Vatican in light of the Cloyne report and the many reports that preceded it is surprising as it’s a word that seems to have been missing from both the vocabulary and more importantly the practice of the clerical paedophiles and even worse their administrative overlords in the hierarchy :(

    ‘Not Catholic priest will obey this law if it is introduced – this needs to be made crytsal clear lest there be any doubt in the mind of the faithful.’

    You need not fear .There is no doubt at all in the minds of the ‘faithful’ . Their eyes have been opened wide over the past couple of decades as the RC Church hierarchy in Ireland and it’s Vatican overlords have been seen to have aided and abetted serial abusers within clerical ranks and used Canon law to protect and defend them against civil conviction .

    If the RC hierarchy and it’s priests continue to show contempt for the civil law then they will face even emptier pews in the future.

  • Greenflag

    @Rory,

    ‘Duh! Hadn’t thought of that, had we?’

    You are being disingenous here -most people even non RC’s are aware of the practical difficulties as regards evidence from the confessional box .

    Wee buns above addresses this ‘difficulty’ with

    ‘As I already said Rory, the type of legislation needed is one that protects civil liberties across the board, rather than one that pointedly restricts religious liberty, so that anyone person who becomes aware of serious wrongdoings within an organization is free to report that in the confidence that the victims (and indeed the reporter themselves) shall receive protection and proper hearing, under the umbrella of being ‘in the public interest’.’

    The RC Church can continue with it’s Canon law precepts – Individual priests or others who are aware of wrongdoings can be assured of protection and a fair hearing . If the RC church decides to excommunicate or expel any priest or church member for failure to adhere to Canon law then that’s the RC Church’s business is it not ?

    Anyway there are thousands out there at the gates just waiting to become ‘priests’ or members of the RC church are there not ?

  • Greenflag

    taoiseach.

    ‘As for Kenny’s claims to be a good Catholic – this would be the man who didn’t bother going to Mass on Ash Wednesday, who didn’t go to Mass on St Patrick’s Day,’

    So you keep tabs on who and who does’nt go to church ? A gobshite supremo no less . I don’t know where you live and care less but if you are noting down the names of all those ‘good , bad non practising Catholics ‘who don’t go to church you must be a busy man . I’d use notebook-computer in my notations if I were you , or else you’d have to drive around with a van load of paper copybooks to get ALL the names .

    Sounds like you’d have done well in the East German Stasi :(

    ‘and who voted to bring in homosexual civil partnerships.’

    Look on the bright side from a civil perspective . Those RC priests who happen to be gay will be able to ‘marry’ their gay partners perhaps even another cleric and if they can’t have their ‘marriage ‘ officiated by the official Church under Canon law they can at least have their relationship recognised by the civil authorities . Now what exactly is wrong with that? All open and above board and recognition of the fact that there have always been ‘gays ‘ in human society and it’s as much a part of the natural law as the fact that of the million or so ‘sperm ‘ that manage to enter a vagina only one gets to impregnate the ovum . The remaining 999,999 do not get to produce the next generation .

    Nature oversupplies as a rule with all species which is why even in human society only 50% of people born manage to procreate the next generation .

    Why call yourself Taoiseach ? Would’nt Cardinal or Bishop or Monsignor or even Rev Father be more apt with views like yours?

  • Rory Carr

    Greenflag,
    You say:

    The RC Church can continue with it’s Canon law precepts – Individual priests or others who are aware of wrongdoings can be assured of protection and a fair hearing . If the RC church decides to excommunicate or expel any priest or church member for failure to adhere to Canon law then that’s the RC Church’s business is it not ?”

    I make no objection to that. It is perfectly right that the state should protect any citizen who becomes a ‘whistleblower’ on wrongdoing from the ire and wrath of his employer or superior and I would include in that any priest who breaks the confessional seal (whether conscience driven or in fear of state persecution matters not) to advise the police of their knowledge of an abuser of children (or any other criminal act for that matter). That is what we must expect the state to do. That is the social contract between a state and its citizens (which includes the priesthood).

    A priest however should never break the confessional seal – that absolute guarantee of confidentiality in confession is what we expect from a priest – that is the social contract between him and his parishoners. And the Church should expel from the priesthood any priest who breaks that sacred trust – that is the social contract between the Church and the faithful.

    What continues to be nonsense however is this ridiculous, unenforceable demand that legislation be enacted to force priests to break the confessional seal against their conscience.

    IT WILL NOT WORK. How many bloody times do I have to say it? And who can tell me even once how it could be made to work?

  • Greenflag

    ‘I make no objection to that.’

    Fine .

    ‘What continues to be nonsense however is this ridiculous, unenforceable demand that legislation be enacted to force priests to break the confessional seal against their conscience’.

    I don’t believe anybody is suggesting that priests break the confessional seal or that any law should be passed that would try to enforce such . But given the type of legislation that is protective of civil liberties that is envisaged by wee buns above then the Civil law would be seen as the final arbiter in those few cases hopefully fewer than what we’ve seen in the past 20 years .

    There are many laws that are on the books that are unenforceable for reasons as arcane as the confessional box absolute but they remain on the statute books presumably to fit some purpose.

    In another generation or so there will be few enough confessional boxes anyway and fewer priests to break any seals so it will hardly matter .

  • wee buns

    We may be talking at cross purposes here for whatever legislation Enda has in mind I’m certain what I’ve suggested is NOT it.

    From a recent article by Transparency Ireland’s John Devitt:
    ‘’We had good reason to believe Government would honour its commitment to a universal charter. The Labour Party tabled the Whistleblower Bill 2010 last February to provide for blanket protections for whistleblowers. Fine Gael also pledged to introduce a single “whistleblower charter” in its Open Government Bill published around the same time.
    Minister Quinn has now announced that ‘international experience’ has shown that such an approach would be cumbersome. Surely someone should have explained that to his colleagues before they made their promise of a universal charter to voters just four months ago. The Minister should also cite this international experience when explaining his Government’s u-turn on whistleblower protection. As far as we are aware, there is none.’’
    https://transparency.ie/discuss/government-break-promises-whistleblower-legislation

    Having by now read the Sunday paper I’m none the wiser as to which potential legislation Enda speaks of so that’s deliberately non specific.
    Rory I accept that even in the extremely unlikely event of whistle blower legislation being extended to cover every citizen who acts in the public interest, no priest could conceivably blow the whistle while remaining inside the priesthood.

    http://whistleblowersireland.com/2010/01/02/welcome/