Irish priests have vowed to defy a new law forcing them to report details of sexual abuse revealed in the confessional box.
Ireland’s Justice Minister Alan Shatter is to introduce new legislation which will force the clergy to reveal all details disclosed in confession.
But priests have vowed to defy the law despite the threat of a 10-year jail sentence after the introduction of the mandatory reporting legislation.
The 800 strong Association of Catholic Priests has even told the Irish Independent newspaper that its members will flout the Shatter law.
Spokesman Fr Sean McDonagh told the paper: “I certainly wouldn’t be willing to break the seal of confession for anyone — Alan Shatter particularly.”
Auxiliary Bishop of Dublin Raymond Field said: “The seal of the confessional is inviolable as far as I am concerned, and that’s the end of the matter.”
Under the new law, every person in the state is obliged to report suspected sexual abuse of children and vulnerable adults to police.
Minister Shatter said: “I would expect that if there was someone going to confession who was a serial sex abuser, I don’t know how anyone could live with their conscience if they didn’t refer that to the gardai (police).”
Shatter’s draft legislation, to be introduced later this year, has already drawn a strong response from the church.
Fr McDonagh also recalled to the Irish Independent how a New Zealand Columban priest, Fr Francis Douglas, was tortured to death by the Japanese during World War Two because he refused to reveal information received in confession about the Filipino guerrillas.
“He is held up to us as a model of how you deal with this extraordinary sacrament. You shouldn’t put into legislation something that cannot be enforced. It makes a mockery of the legislation,” he said.
“Confessions are held in private so that priests do not know who is in the confessional box.
“I would question whether the mandatory reporting requirement will stop even one case of child sexual abuse.”
In response, Minister Shatter again highlighted the failure of the Catholic Church authorities to act on warnings from victims - and the movement of priests accused of abuse from parish to parish.
“As someone who doesn’t frequent confession, I don’t know what information people share in confessions,” said Shatter.
“But I don’t think anyone has a substantial knowledge about numbers of paedophiles sharing their exploits through the confessional and being given absolution for it.