Author Topic: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal  (Read 890 times)

Offline TheReturnofLive

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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?
 

Offline Daniel

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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.
« Last Edit: September 05, 2020, 07:54:38 PM by Daniel »
 

Offline Jayne

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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.
Jesus, meek and humble of heart, make my heart like unto Thine.
 
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Offline TheReturnofLive

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Sweet, thanks man.
 

Offline Philip G.

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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.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2020, 01:20:13 AM by Philip G. »
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Offline Sempronius

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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?
 

Offline Greg

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Take Mr. Crane for a retreat at sea.
 
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Offline The Theosist

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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:
 

Offline The Theosist

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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.
 

Offline trentcath

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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.
 

Offline Jayne

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Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
« Reply #10 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.
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Offline Jayne

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Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
« Reply #11 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.
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Offline The Theosist

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Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
« Reply #12 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.



 

Offline Daniel

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Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
« Reply #13 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?
 

Offline Philip G.

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Re: Canon Law, Legal Question on whether fact pattern breaks the Confession Seal
« Reply #14 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.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2020, 02:43:56 PM by Philip G. »
For the stone shall cry out of the wall; and the timber that is between the joints of the building, shall answer.  Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and prepareth a city by iniquity. - Habacuc 2,11-12