OPINION

Mid-week Musings || Breaking seal burns refuge of good sinners

Innocence robbed: Any good person - and even most of the bad - despises paedophilia.
Innocence robbed: Any good person - and even most of the bad - despises paedophilia.

Would you burn down the Amazon rainforest to catch someone hiding in there you believed was a paedophile?

Any good person - and even most of the bad - despises paedophilia.

It may come as a shock to some of you, but we priests despise paedophiles I think more than most occupations, the paedophiles among our own ranks have shot our credibility, prevented us from sharing the good news with children and caused many people to hate priests before even meeting us.

Paedophiles have robbed society of its innocence because the most evil theft in the world is the theft of a child's innocence.

My late brother Father Kevin Lee - well known for being outspoken against the covering up of clerical sexual abuse - pointed out that paedophilia was the one sin that it seems even Jesus believed is worthy of capital punishment when he said, "It were better for him, that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and he cast into the sea, than that he should scandalize one of these little ones." (Luke 17:2)

Paedophilia is intrinsically evil and therefore, anybody who knows of paedophilia and does not report it is clearly guilty of a serious sin.

This being the case, I understand people's anger at any priest who says they will never break the seal, given people believe priests are keeping silent about paedophilia that's been confessed to them.

So why is there such universal opposition from all priests to breaking the seal?

I've heard well over 10,000 confessions in my job as a priest which is 10,000 more than any politician that's voted recently to have the seal of confession removed.

These politicians show a significant lack of understanding regarding the workings of confession, especially of the fact that priests usually can't see the person who is confessing as there is usually a wall between the priest and the person to protect the person's privacy and good name.

When politicians say they want priests to break the seal of confession, how do they logistically intend this to happen? Report the identity of someone they never physically saw? Risk reporting someone innocent?

Might not an astute paedophile pretend to be someone else? Such "evidence" would surely be inadmissible.

How will police test priests? Fake confessions pretending to be paedophiles? Bug confessionals? Entrapment? Or simply trust the confession of a paedophile?

Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews' confidence last week about new legislation carrying sentences of up to three years for priests failing to report abuse was bemusing, given after 25 years of Victorian mandatory reporting laws, Mr Andrews said he was not aware of even one conviction.

Not surprisingly, politicians and media deceptively persuaded us to believe their support of ending the seal of confession was based on the recommendations of the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

The elephant in the room in this debate for me is that, of the 26 recommendations the Royal Commission made to the Catholic Church, breaking the seal of confession was not one of them.

It recommended in Rec. 16.26 that if a person confesses paedophilia, absolution should be withheld until they report themselves. This does not break the seal.

But it's worth breaking the seal to save even one child and catch even one paedophile, right?

If the seal of confession is broken even once by only one priest, the seal of confession will be destroyed for many and forever.

I've heard well over 10,000 confessions in my job as a priest, which is 10,000 more than any politician that's voted recently to have the seal of confession removed.

No second paedophile would ever trust priest confidentiality again nor any victim, thus preventing priests the opportunity to convince offenders to turn themselves in.

If the Amazon Rainforest is the lungs of the entire world, would you burn down the entire Amazon to catch one paedophile? Because that is what's at stake here.

After 18 years in the priesthood I have come to realise that Confession is the spiritual Amazon of not only Catholics but non-Catholics and even atheists who need to let it out and let it go and realise they're not so bad.

Why burn down the refuge of so many good sinners in the hope of finding a few bad sinners you will not find even among the ashes?