French debate seal of confession after abuse report

Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort (Wikimedia/G Garitan)

Church and government leaders in France are at odds over whether priests should be required to report the abuse of minors if they learn about it in the sacrament of confession. Source: The Tablet.

Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, president of the French bishops’ conference, and Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin met to discuss the issue, a week after the release of a report by an independent commission that estimated 330,000 children had been abused by Catholic priests or Church employees in France since the 1950s.

At issue is whether French law takes precedence over the seal of confession, a sacred practice in which a confessor does not reveal what is told to him during a confession.

One of the recommendations in the commission’s report was that the Church should “send a clear message from the Church authorities to penitents taking confession and to the faithful that the seal of confession may not derogate from the obligation provided for by the (French) Criminal Code ... to report to the judicial and administrative authorities all cases of sexual violence inflicted on a child or a vulnerable person”.

Mr Darmanin told legislators that he had reaffirmed “the primacy of French laws” during his meeting with the archbishop and said Catholic confessional secrecy could not be “used as a justification for not denouncing sexual crimes against children”.

After the meeting, the French bishops conference issued a statement saying work is “needed to reconcile the nature of confession with the necessity of protecting children”.

In a note approved by Pope Francis and published by the Vatican in mid-2019, the Apostolic Penitentiary affirmed the absolute secrecy of everything said in confession and called on priests to defend it at all costs, even at the cost of their lives.


Seal of confession debated in France after abuse report (CNS via The Tablet

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