Suscipe Domine Traditional Catholic Forum

The Church Courtyard => Ask a Traditionalist => Topic started by: TheReturnofLive on September 05, 2020, 07:03:11 PM

Title: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: TheReturnofLive on September 05, 2020, 07:03:11 PM
Say we have a situation. Mr. Crane is a 54 year old, single male parishioner who begins to establish a relationship with a 13 year old girl, Emily, through the local Catholic Church they both attend. Mr. Crane is heavily involved in the Church community and helps out quite a bit. At first this relationship is a mentorship, but it eventually devolves into sexting and sexually suggestive texts, and then devolves into continuous sexual molestation.

Both Mr. Crane and Emily confess to the Priest. The Priest, in an attempt to not break the seal, decides to tell the parents that he's noticed that Mr. Crane and Emily have had a very close relationship, and that the parents should take a look into it.

Does this disclosure break the seal? Does anyone have any canon law citation about this?
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: Daniel on September 05, 2020, 07:27:59 PM
Unless somebody here is a canon lawyer, I'm not sure that anyone would be able to tell you.

My guess (and this is only a guess) is that it would not break the seal since: 1.) the priest isn't revealing a sin (let alone a sin revealed in the confessional), and 2.) the mentorship is probably public knowledge anyway, not something that the priest wasn't aware of before the confession, and probably not something Emily's parents aren't already aware of either (though, you'd think that if the priest had seriously suspected that something was up, he wouldn't have waited until a confession was made before deciding to warn the parents...).

edit - I think it could be argued that my #1 may be false. The priest, by directly mentioning the non-sin, is most likely indirectly revealing the sin.


edit - Never mind, see Jayne's post below (https://www.suscipedomine.com/forum/index.php?topic=24439.msg510782#msg510782).
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: Jayne on September 05, 2020, 07:47:19 PM
Does this disclosure break the seal? Does anyone have any canon law citation about this?

Yes, it breaks the seal.

Quote
Can.  983 1. The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.
[...]

Can.  984 1. A confessor is prohibited completely from using knowledge acquired from confession to the detriment of the penitent even when any danger of revelation is excluded.

2. A person who has been placed in authority cannot use in any manner for external governance the knowledge about sins which he has received in confession at any time.
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: TheReturnofLive on September 06, 2020, 12:29:12 AM
Sweet, thanks man.
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: Philip G. on September 06, 2020, 01:09:15 AM
Say we have a situation. Mr. Crane is a 54 year old, single male parishioner who begins to establish a relationship with a 13 year old girl, Emily, through the local Catholic Church they both attend. Mr. Crane is heavily involved in the Church community and helps out quite a bit. At first this relationship is a mentorship, but it eventually devolves into sexting and sexually suggestive texts, and then devolves into continuous sexual molestation.

Both Mr. Crane and Emily confess to the Priest. The Priest, in an attempt to not break the seal, decides to tell the parents that he's noticed that Mr. Crane and Emily have had a very close relationship, and that the parents should take a look into it.

Does this disclosure break the seal? Does anyone have any canon law citation about this?

What lessons can we learn from this?  Perhaps parents should not allow their children to have text messaging capabilities. 

Aside from the lack of details regarding this unusual mentorship, one clear takeaway is that yes, if this scenario is a plausible catholic scenario, forbidding minors from having text and photo capable phones will aid in preventing it.
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: Sempronius on September 06, 2020, 01:31:50 AM
Does this disclosure break the seal? Does anyone have any canon law citation about this?

Yes, it breaks the seal.

Quote
Can.  983 1. The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.
[...]

Can.  984 1. A confessor is prohibited completely from using knowledge acquired from confession to the detriment of the penitent even when any danger of revelation is excluded.

2. A person who has been placed in authority cannot use in any manner for external governance the knowledge about sins which he has received in confession at any time.

Ok then, so what should the priest do?
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: Greg on September 06, 2020, 01:40:45 AM
Take Mr. Crane for a retreat at sea.
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: The Theosist on September 06, 2020, 06:48:18 AM
Better yet, what should the priest do if Mr Crane say in the confessional that he's going to violently rape and murder her?  :cheeseheadbeer:
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: The Theosist on September 06, 2020, 06:51:42 AM
Take Mr. Crane for a retreat at sea.

Since absolution is dependent on contrition, one wonders why a priest should grant absolution without any action on Mr Crane's part demonstrating that. Surely a repentant molester would sever such a relationship and, for the sake of being unable to continue in his child-molesting ways, turn himself in to face the human justice he deserves.
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: trentcath on September 06, 2020, 08:00:14 AM
Does this disclosure break the seal? Does anyone have any canon law citation about this?

Yes, it breaks the seal.

Quote
Can.  983 1. The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.
[...]

Can.  984 1. A confessor is prohibited completely from using knowledge acquired from confession to the detriment of the penitent even when any danger of revelation is excluded.

2. A person who has been placed in authority cannot use in any manner for external governance the knowledge about sins which he has received in confession at any time.

Ok then, so what should the priest do?

I wonder, does this apply to reception of the sacraments? In other words, is a priest obliged to continue administering communion to someone who they know is in a grave state of mortal sin? I would assume yes, unless their sins are public, but perhaps they could privately refuse to administer communion to them etc... i.e. if there was no one else in the Church.

I assume all the priest can do is pray for them and refuse absolution.
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: Jayne on September 06, 2020, 09:30:50 AM
Ok then, so what should the priest do?

In this scenario, both Mr. Crane and Emily confessed to the priest.  That means the priest has an opportunity to talk to both of them about what they said. 

He can tell Mr. Crane that he is committing a horrible sin and that he must stop.  The priest can tell Mr. Crane that spending any time alone with Emily is a near occasion of sin and that he should stop that too.  The may be some sort of counselling or program to help Mr. Crane stop his behaviour and the priest can inform him of it.

The priest can tell Emily that Mr. Crane did something very bad and it's not her fault.  The priest can advise her to stay away from Mr. Crane and to tell her parents about the situation.
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: Jayne on September 06, 2020, 09:56:59 AM
Better yet, what should the priest do if Mr Crane say in the confessional that he's going to violently rape and murder her? 

A situation like this is unlikely to occur.  Usually people justify their actions to themselves and convince themselves that what they are doing is right.  Most child molesters, for example, see themselves as showing love and affection to children.

A person who was planning to violently rape and murder someone would probably convince himself that the planned victim deserved it and possibly see himself as the victim.  In the rare cases of people who acknowledge to themselves that they are doing something completely evil but they intend to do it anyhow, they are unlikely to go to Confession since their consciences have ceased to function.
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: The Theosist on September 06, 2020, 10:49:25 AM
Better yet, what should the priest do if Mr Crane say in the confessional that he's going to violently rape and murder her? 

A situation like this is unlikely to occur.  Usually people justify their actions to themselves and convince themselves that what they are doing is right.  Most child molesters, for example, see themselves as showing love and affection to children.

A person who was planning to violently rape and murder someone would probably convince himself that the planned victim deserved it and possibly see himself as the victim.  In the rare cases of people who acknowledge to themselves that they are doing something completely evil but they intend to do it anyhow, they are unlikely to go to Confession since their consciences have ceased to function.

Saying it's unlikely to occur doesn't actually answer the question or address the moral conundrum implicit in canon law.

Quote
Most child molesters, for example, see themselves as showing love and affection to children.

(https://imgflip.com/s/meme/Computer-Guy-Facepalm.jpg)

Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: Daniel on September 06, 2020, 10:52:17 AM
Take Mr. Crane for a retreat at sea.

Since absolution is dependent on contrition, one wonders why a priest should grant absolution without any action on Mr Crane's part demonstrating that. Surely a repentant molester would sever such a relationship and, for the sake of being unable to continue in his child-molesting ways, turn himself in to face the human justice he deserves.

There isn't strictly any "child molesting" going on, since Emily is 13 and therefore post-pubescent. What we're talking about seems to be consensual sex between a minor and somebody who is not a minor. (Otherwise what did Emily confess?)

But regardless, who says that Mr. Crane has no contrition? If he's sincere, he has already stopped with the sex. I see no need for him to sever the mentorship or turn himself in to the police. It might be a good idea to sever the mentorship, but he doesn't have to. (Unless it's an occasion of sin for either of them.) He certainly shouldn't turn himself into the police... that's just stupid.


I wonder, does this apply to reception of the sacraments? In other words, is a priest obliged to continue administering communion to someone who they know is in a grave state of mortal sin? I would assume yes, unless their sins are public, but perhaps they could privately refuse to administer communion to them etc... i.e. if there was no one else in the Church.

I assume all the priest can do is pray for them and refuse absolution.

Why would he be in mortal sin if he has been absolved? And why should the priest refuse him absolution if he is sincere? Maybe I'm misunderstanding the scenario, but I thought Live was describing a hypothetical man who repents and confesses the sin. Not a man who goes to confession to brag about his sin and to continue doing it.


Though I do find Can. 984 2 to be interesting. It seems to greatly limit the way in which the priest governs his parish. Suppose the priest notices that there's a lot of chitchat going on in the chapel, so the priest plans to make some official rule against chitchat, or perhaps he plans to mention it in a sermon, in an attempt to keep his parishioners in line. But before he gets the chance to do any of these things, some random parishioner goes to him in the confessional and confesses "I was talking while in the chapel". So, now that it has showed up in somebody's confession, the priest is no longer allowed to make any attempt to discourage the chitchat?
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: Philip G. on September 06, 2020, 02:42:09 PM
Take Mr. Crane for a retreat at sea.

Since absolution is dependent on contrition, one wonders why a priest should grant absolution without any action on Mr Crane's part demonstrating that. Surely a repentant molester would sever such a relationship and, for the sake of being unable to continue in his child-molesting ways, turn himself in to face the human justice he deserves.

There isn't strictly any "child molesting" going on, since Emily is 13 and therefore post-pubescent. What we're talking about seems to be consensual sex between a minor and somebody who is not a minor. (Otherwise what did Emily confess?)

But regardless, who says that Mr. Crane has no contrition? If he's sincere, he has already stopped with the sex. I see no need for him to sever the mentorship or turn himself in to the police. It might be a good idea to sever the mentorship, but he doesn't have to. (Unless it's an occasion of sin for either of them.) He certainly shouldn't turn himself into the police... that's just stupid.


I wonder, does this apply to reception of the sacraments? In other words, is a priest obliged to continue administering communion to someone who they know is in a grave state of mortal sin? I would assume yes, unless their sins are public, but perhaps they could privately refuse to administer communion to them etc... i.e. if there was no one else in the Church.

I assume all the priest can do is pray for them and refuse absolution.

Why would he be in mortal sin if he has been absolved? And why should the priest refuse him absolution if he is sincere? Maybe I'm misunderstanding the scenario, but I thought Live was describing a hypothetical man who repents and confesses the sin. Not a man who goes to confession to brag about his sin and to continue doing it.


Though I do find Can. 984 2 to be interesting. It seems to greatly limit the way in which the priest governs his parish. Suppose the priest notices that there's a lot of chitchat going on in the chapel, so the priest plans to make some official rule against chitchat, or perhaps he plans to mention it in a sermon, in an attempt to keep his parishioners in line. But before he gets the chance to do any of these things, some random parishioner goes to him in the confessional and confesses "I was talking while in the chapel". So, now that it has showed up in somebody's confession, the priest is no longer allowed to make any attempt to discourage the chitchat?

The man must break off the relationship until the girl becomes an adult.  And, the priest should know this and demand such conditions via penance as the condition for receiving absolution.  This OP scenario is not very coherent and lacks in details.  But, for trads, this situation at the very worst should end in the confessional via penance and contrition. At best it should never occur in the first place, with technology being limited to minors, and strange relationships such as this being culturally taboo.  But, that is granting that the church is heathy enough to influence the culture, which we are far from.  We can start by taking back our power from spaniards(dominicans and jesuits) who have wrecked our religion with their moral laxity.
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: LausTibiChriste on September 06, 2020, 03:25:11 PM
Better yet, what should the priest do if Mr Crane say in the confessional that he's going to violently rape and murder her? 
Most child molesters, for example, see themselves as showing love and affection to children.

Never thought I'd see the day (((Jayne))) excuses the behaviour of child molesterors.


I'm shocked /s
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: LausTibiChriste on September 06, 2020, 03:25:41 PM
Say we have a situation. Mr. Crane is a 54 year old, single male parishioner who begins to establish a relationship with a 13 year old girl, Emily, through the local Catholic Church they both attend. Mr. Crane is heavily involved in the Church community and helps out quite a bit. At first this relationship is a mentorship, but it eventually devolves into sexting and sexually suggestive texts, and then devolves into continuous sexual molestation.

Both Mr. Crane and Emily confess to the Priest. The Priest, in an attempt to not break the seal, decides to tell the parents that he's noticed that Mr. Crane and Emily have had a very close relationship, and that the parents should take a look into it.

Does this disclosure break the seal? Does anyone have any canon law citation about this?

Ask the priest, Mr. Crane.
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: Jayne on September 06, 2020, 04:49:18 PM
Is there general confusion around the idea the people's ability for self-deception means that they are capable of justifying to themselves even the most evil of actions?  Or is it just a couple of (deliberately?) obtuse forum members who cannot understand it? Anyone who has encountered the talking points of abortion supporters (which is presumably all of us) must be aware of this facet of human nature.

Describing the rationalizations that people make for themselves does not mean that one accepts them as legitimate excuses.  I can think of few things more obvious than the fact that there is no legitimate excuse for sexually molesting a child.  It is intellectually dishonest to take my words out of context to pretend that I think otherwise.  Even LTC is not stupid enough to really think I consider it acceptable to sexually molest a child.

For the record, molesting children is evil and sickening. 
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: Elizabeth.2 on September 06, 2020, 04:57:34 PM
Take Mr. Crane for a retreat at sea.

Since absolution is dependent on contrition, one wonders why a priest should grant absolution without any action on Mr Crane's part demonstrating that. Surely a repentant molester would sever such a relationship and, for the sake of being unable to continue in his child-molesting ways, turn himself in to face the human justice he deserves.
I agree with both of you.
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: The Theosist on September 07, 2020, 04:42:07 AM
Is there general confusion around the idea the people's ability for self-deception means that they are capable of justifying to themselves even the most evil of actions?  Or is it just a couple of (deliberately?) obtuse forum members who cannot understand it?

No, I just don't accept the claim you made, which is in principle untestable.

Quote
Describing the rationalizations that people make for themselves does not mean that one accepts them as legitimate excuses.  I can think of few things more obvious than the fact that there is no legitimate excuse for sexually molesting a child. 

Rationalisations, especially those expressed to others, are not the same thing as what someone sees himself as doing when he does it.
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: The Theosist on September 07, 2020, 04:53:47 AM
Take Mr. Crane for a retreat at sea.

Since absolution is dependent on contrition, one wonders why a priest should grant absolution without any action on Mr Crane's part demonstrating that. Surely a repentant molester would sever such a relationship and, for the sake of being unable to continue in his child-molesting ways, turn himself in to face the human justice he deserves.

There isn't strictly any "child molesting" going on, since Emily is 13 and therefore post-pubescent. What we're talking about seems to be consensual sex between a minor and somebody who is not a minor. (Otherwise what did Emily confess?)

A thirteen-year-old is a child, and no, she is not capable of free, informed consent of a sexual nature with a man in a position of power over her.


Quote
But regardless, who says that Mr. Crane has no contrition? If he's sincere, he has already stopped with the sex. I see no need for him to sever the mentorship or turn himself in to the police. It might be a good idea to sever the mentorship, but he doesn't have to. (Unless it's an occasion of sin for either of them.)

Obviously it's an occasion for sin, and removal of it an essential sign of resolve, a necessary condition of contrition, to not do it again. This is like swearing off pornography without deleting it from your hard drive. I call bullshit.

Quote
He certainly shouldn't turn himself into the police... that's just stupid.

No, it's not stupid. If he's truly sorry for his crimes, if he truly believes what he did was terrible, he should surely be willing to see justice served and restitution made. Moreover, not informing the parents of what has happened leaves the girl in a situation where she is not receiving the help she needs. That is part of justice, rectifying a wrong, and the will to do it surely a part of contrition when the latter isn't merely a self-centered reaction of self-pity and fear.
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: Daniel on September 07, 2020, 08:34:29 AM
A thirteen-year-old is a child, and no, she is not capable of free, informed consent of a sexual nature with a man in a position of power over her.

What I was getting at is that there's an essential difference between sexual acts directed towards a pre-pubescent person and sexual acts directed towards a post-pubescent person. If you want to call the latter "child molestation" then I suppose that's fine, but it's not exactly comparable to the former.

In what sense was she not "free"? She may be young but she's not stupid. As soon as she became aware of the situation, she conceivably could have gone to her parents or to the priest and raised some sort of a complaint against Mr. Crane (or, had she been too scared or embarrassed to do that, she could have at least asked to be re-assigned to a different mentor without really specifying what the problem was). Another option would have been for her to send a reply text to Mr. Crane, telling him to cut it out. Granted, the OP's hypothetical situation lacks details making it impossible to know just how "free" she was or how two-sided the relationship may or may not have been. Saints such as Agnes and Maria Goretti have proven themselves "free" in far worse situations, but a person lacking in grace would not have been able to resist. It's not clear whether Emily knew what Mr. Crane was up to or whether she ever welcomed his sexual advances, though at some point she did come to realize what was happening.

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Obviously it's an occasion for sin, and removal of it an essential sign of resolve, a necessary condition of contrition, to not do it again. This is like swearing off pornography without deleting it from your hard drive. I call bullshit.

That's generally true, but you never know. But yeah, he should probably cut off the mentorship.

Quote
No, it's not stupid. If he's truly sorry for his crimes, if he truly believes what he did was terrible, he should surely be willing to see justice served and restitution made. Moreover, not informing the parents of what has happened leaves the girl in a situation where she is not receiving the help she needs. That is part of justice, rectifying a wrong, and the will to do it surely a part of contrition when the latter isn't merely a self-centered reaction of self-pity and fear.

If by "justice" you mean taking reasonable steps to correct the damage when possible and practical, then I agree. However, turning yourself in to the police usually doesn't accomplish this. All that does is destroy your livelihood, which is completely unnecessary here. (Even worse if, unlike Mr. Crane, you are the head of a large Catholic family.) Probably also cuts you off from the sacraments for quite some time (unless the prison chaplain happens to be a traditionalist priest).
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: trentcath on September 07, 2020, 09:45:17 AM
A thirteen-year-old is a child, and no, she is not capable of free, informed consent of a sexual nature with a man in a position of power over her.

What I was getting at is that there's an essential difference between sexual acts directed towards a pre-pubescent person and sexual acts directed towards a post-pubescent person. If you want to call the latter "child molestation" then I suppose that's fine, but it's not exactly comparable to the former.

In what sense was she not "free"? She may be young but she's not stupid. As soon as she became aware of the situation, she conceivably could have gone to her parents or to the priest and raised some sort of a complaint against Mr. Crane (or, had she been too scared or embarrassed to do that, she could have at least asked to be re-assigned to a different mentor without really specifying what the problem was). Another option would have been for her to send a reply text to Mr. Crane, telling him to cut it out. Granted, the OP's hypothetical situation lacks details making it impossible to know just how "free" she was or how two-sided the relationship may or may not have been. Saints such as Agnes and Maria Goretti have proven themselves "free" in far worse situations, but a person lacking in grace would not have been able to resist. It's not clear whether Emily knew what Mr. Crane was up to or whether she ever welcomed his sexual advances, though at some point she did come to realize what was happening.

Quote
Obviously it's an occasion for sin, and removal of it an essential sign of resolve, a necessary condition of contrition, to not do it again. This is like swearing off pornography without deleting it from your hard drive. I call bullshit.

That's generally true, but you never know. But yeah, he should probably cut off the mentorship.

Quote
No, it's not stupid. If he's truly sorry for his crimes, if he truly believes what he did was terrible, he should surely be willing to see justice served and restitution made. Moreover, not informing the parents of what has happened leaves the girl in a situation where she is not receiving the help she needs. That is part of justice, rectifying a wrong, and the will to do it surely a part of contrition when the latter isn't merely a self-centered reaction of self-pity and fear.

If by "justice" you mean taking reasonable steps to correct the damage when possible and practical, then I agree. However, turning yourself in to the police usually doesn't accomplish this. All that does is destroy your livelihood, which is completely unnecessary here. (Even worse if, unlike Mr. Crane, you are the head of a large Catholic family.) Probably also cuts you off from the sacraments for quite some time (unless the prison chaplain happens to be a traditionalist priest).

Not really sure what planet you are on, but we are talking someone who is 13 not someone who is say 16 or 18. Assuming the age of consent is not 13 but is 16 or 18 then this is clearly not only immoral but also borderline illegal. Some jurisdictions actually ban grooming, sexting etc... I don't see why this individual should not turn himself into the police, at least if he is incapable of restraining himself, if he has committed a crime he should pay the applicable penalty. In any event, assuming the person is incapable of making restitution and of genuinely repenting of his sin, which involves an effort to stop committing it, he has already cut himself off from the sacraments.

Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: Jayne on September 07, 2020, 10:15:24 AM
A thirteen-year-old is a child, and no, she is not capable of free, informed consent of a sexual nature with a man in a position of power over her.

What I was getting at is that there's an essential difference between sexual acts directed towards a pre-pubescent person and sexual acts directed towards a post-pubescent person. If you want to call the latter "child molestation" then I suppose that's fine, but it's not exactly comparable to the former.

The stage of sexual development of the victim makes a difference to the precise term used to describe the perversion in question. (A thirteen-year-old's development will vary by individual.) Legally and morally it is sexual abuse of a minor.   Mr. Crane has molested a child in this scenario, just as if he had preyed on an eight-year.  It is not a difference that makes a difference.
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: Daniel on September 07, 2020, 11:25:51 AM
I don't see why this individual should not turn himself into the police, at least if he is incapable of restraining himself, if he has committed a crime he should pay the applicable penalty. In any event, assuming the person is incapable of making restitution and of genuinely repenting of his sin, which involves an effort to stop committing it, he has already cut himself off from the sacraments.

I don't know what the OP's intended meaning was, but the way I read it I took Mr. Crane to be an older gentleman who, while mentoring the 13-year-old Emily, ended up falling into disgusting and totally-inappropriate sins of lust with her. He eventually came to his senses, stopped committing the sin, repented of it, and went to confession. There is no indication that he wasn't sincere, nor is there any indication that he is incapable of restraining himself, especially after having received the grace of the confession. If he were a truly wicked and unrepentant man who will never be able to restrain himself then perhaps he should be locked up, in order to protect at least his future victims from his sin. But if that's not the case, there's no point in destroying his life or in tormenting him with sins already forgiven.

On second thought, I guess this is probably not what the OP had in mind. Because if this were the case, what would be the point in the priest warning Emily's parents about something that was no longer an issue? Could just be that he's being extra cautious though.


The stage of sexual development of the victim makes a difference to the precise term used to describe the perversion in question. (A thirteen-year-old's development will vary by individual.) Legally and morally it is sexual abuse of a minor.   Mr. Crane has molested a child in this scenario, just as if he had preyed on an eight-year.  It is not a difference that makes a difference.

There is a difference though. If your point is only that Mr. Crane was trying to take advantage the weak and defenseless, then I concede the point. It may have been so.

However, we don't know the reason why he went after her. Maybe he was "preying" on her, as you say. Perhaps he sought the mentorship just so he could be a pervert. But there is another possibility: Maybe he honestly wanted to help out at the parish / get involved with mentoring, and, in the process, unfortunately ended up falling into a sin of acts of lust which merely happened to be directed at somebody who happened to be a defenseless minor (the same could have happened had Emily been, say, 16 or 17 years old, not as defenseless).
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: Jayne on September 07, 2020, 12:11:57 PM
However, we don't know the reason why he went after her. Maybe he was "preying" on her, as you say. Perhaps he sought the mentorship just so he could be a pervert. But there is another possibility: Maybe he honestly wanted to help out at the parish / get involved with mentoring, and, in the process, unfortunately ended up falling into a sin of acts of lust which merely happened to be directed at somebody who happened to be a defenseless minor (the same could have happened had Emily been, say, 16 or 17 years old, not as defenseless).

Typically people who molest children are serial predators.  They seek out positions that give them access to prey.  It is unusual for there to be isolated incidents of "falling into lust".  This is one reason why it is so important to identify them and remove them from society.  These people do not stop themselves.  They continue preying on one victim after another until somebody stops them.

The "falling into lust" model is the thinking behind the old practice of moving sexual predator priests to another parish.  They thought that removing the priest from the person whom they thought had triggered the behaviour would stop it.  But this way of thinking about it is simply incorrect and led to countless children becoming prey to priests.

A person who does not stop himself from acting on a physical attraction to a thirteen-year-old, no matter how physically mature she appears, has something fundamentally wrong with him.  The power imbalance is part of the perversion.  It should not be treated as an isolated incident of "falling into lust" because he is likely to repeatedly recreate that kind of relationship.
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: trentcath on September 07, 2020, 12:25:04 PM


I don't know what the OP's intended meaning was, but the way I read it I took Mr. Crane to be an older gentleman who, while mentoring the 13-year-old Emily, ended up falling into disgusting and totally-inappropriate sins of lust with her. He eventually came to his senses, stopped committing the sin, repented of it, and went to confession. There is no indication that he wasn't sincere, nor is there any indication that he is incapable of restraining himself, especially after having received the grace of the confession. If he were a truly wicked and unrepentant man who will never be able to restrain himself then perhaps he should be locked up, in order to protect at least his future victims from his sin. But if that's not the case, there's no point in destroying his life or in tormenting him with sins already forgiven.

On second thought, I guess this is probably not what the OP had in mind. Because if this were the case, what would be the point in the priest warning Emily's parents about something that was no longer an issue? Could just be that he's being extra cautious though.


I'm guessing the "not" was unintentional? Because yes I think that is the situation at hand.
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: TheReturnofLive on September 07, 2020, 07:40:10 PM
Guys, doesn't the seal applies regardless if the Priest grants absolution?

If I went to a Priest and confessed the murder of my inlaws, and he told me I had to turn myself in to receive absolution, and I said "no, I hated my inlaws," and the priest shoos me away, the priest can't then report me to the cops, right?
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: Daniel on September 07, 2020, 08:10:18 PM
Guys, doesn't the seal applies regardless if the Priest grants absolution?

If I went to a Priest and confessed the murder of my inlaws, and he told me I had to turn myself in to receive absolution, and I said "no, I hated my inlaws," and the priest shoos me away, the priest can't then report me to the cops, right?

That's my understanding of it. Otherwise there'd be a serious problem.
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: coffeeandcigarette on September 07, 2020, 08:16:10 PM
Is there general confusion around the idea the people's ability for self-deception means that they are capable of justifying to themselves even the most evil of actions?  Or is it just a couple of (deliberately?) obtuse forum members who cannot understand it? Anyone who has encountered the talking points of abortion supporters (which is presumably all of us) must be aware of this facet of human nature.

Describing the rationalizations that people make for themselves does not mean that one accepts them as legitimate excuses.  I can think of few things more obvious than the fact that there is no legitimate excuse for sexually molesting a child.  It is intellectually dishonest to take my words out of context to pretend that I think otherwise.  Even LTC is not stupid enough to really think I consider it acceptable to sexually molest a child.

For the record, molesting children is evil and sickening.

Just ignore him...he is on something...
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: Daniel on September 13, 2020, 07:13:36 PM
If by "justice" you mean taking reasonable steps to correct the damage when possible and practical, then I agree. However, turning yourself in to the police usually doesn't accomplish this. All that does is destroy your livelihood, which is completely unnecessary here. (Even worse if, unlike Mr. Crane, you are the head of a large Catholic family.) Probably also cuts you off from the sacraments for quite some time (unless the prison chaplain happens to be a traditionalist priest).

Ok, I retract this. I may have been wrong.


Anyway, a new question came to me: Is the seal altogether unbreakable? Because what about all those anecdotes we hear about stuff that was said in confession? e.g. The story about the gossip and the feathers. Are we to think of these as fictions? Or are there certain cases in which the priest is allowed to speak about what people have confessed in confession?
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: Jayne on September 13, 2020, 08:06:51 PM
The penalty for a priest breaking the seal of Confession is latae sententiae (automatic) excommunication.  This is one of only eight offences with this penalty.  This gives a pretty good idea of how seriously it is taken.
Title: Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
Post by: Miriam_M on September 13, 2020, 09:35:59 PM
Guys, doesn't the seal applies regardless if the Priest grants absolution?

If I went to a Priest and confessed the murder of my inlaws, and he told me I had to turn myself in to receive absolution, and I said "no, I hated my inlaws," and the priest shoos me away, the priest can't then report me to the cops, right?


A priest may not make absolution contingent upon secular law (turning oneself into the authorities) because he is not there to adjudicate crimes against people and the State, but crimes against God.  The confessional is a divine tribunal, not an earthly one. 

The priest is instructed to be the judge of three things:

1.The gravity of the matter confessed, given the sin described and its circumstances.

2. The sorrow of the penitent, to at least a minimum degree. (We can always advance in sorrow for our sins, but there should be some indication of sorrow by the penitent.)

3. Amendment of life. This is mainly shown by the absence of it:  For example, someone in habitual mortal sin telling the priest that he or she "can't stop" committing x, y, or z.  (Adultery, for example -- such as having no intention to physically separate from the situation or claiming that such a separation is "impossible.")  With such recalcitrance, the sincere priest has no choice but to deny absolution until the amendment has been announced.

The confessor is allowed to suggest or recommend that a person who has committed a crime turn himself in to face earthly justice, but he may not imply that the penitent will not be forgiven by God or granted absolution until he does so.  Therefore, any such suggestion would have to be done delicately and skillfully.