Top Anglican calls for lifting seal of confessional in child abuse cases

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Christian confessional in mysterious light.

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Christian confessional in mysterious light.

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CANTERBURY, England (RNS) "How can you hear a confession about somebody abusing a child and the matter must be sealed up and you mustn’t talk about it?" asked Archbishop of York John Sentamu.

  • Fran

    What a catastrophe!!!! An Anglican priest abusing children in England and Australia for more than 50 years!!! What an abomination to God, whom the Church claimed to represent!!

  • S. Keegan

    The Roman Catholic Church is not in the business of cowtowing to the whims of culture; rest assured, your confession to a Catholic confessor WILL remain confidential, and your absolution will NEVER be continent upon revealing the content of your confession to anyone else. Our Lord offers free salvation to any who would receive it, and Mother Church carries out this continuing commission by placing no stumbling blocks in a penitent’s path to reconciliation.

  • Touma

    I am all for some one finding salvation after years of grievous sinning. However, I would prefer them to do so from behind the bars of a jail cell, if they have been molesting children.

  • EssEm

    Is there ANY societal drift that the CofE will not eventually capitulate to? I suppose if your foundation is built on accommodating a tyrant’s divorce, it’s built into your ecclesiastical DNA.

    BTW, if this is the policy, then what is the likelihood that someone with this issue will bring it up? And how often do Anglicans confess anyway?

    It’s a lose/lose, to make a dying church look good in the eyes of its cultured despisers.

  • Mark

    As someone who is in the process of ordination for the Anglican priesthood, let me say that it is less helpful to attack the Church of England for so-called ‘capitulating’ to this or that, or attack the Roman Catholic Church for not taking action in these cases. I wrestle with both (if it is the will of God) my future duty as a future priest in the sacrament of Reconciliation and at the same time with the suffering caused by one human being (particularly a child) by another human being. Even if I disagree with Archbishop Sentamu, what he is saying should not be disregarded as accommodation, but first it should be reflected from not only a theological standpoint but also a pastoral point of view for everyone involved. Let us not descend into attacks my brothers and sisters, and remembers that we can all agree that children need to protected. How the Church (both RC and COE) goes about doing this is not just an important discussion but it is also critical.

  • Geoff

    His grace is obviously, understandably, distressed by the revelations that have been made and I can empathize with his reaction, but it only underscores the need for the sacraments of the Church to remain outside of public sentiment and political processes. Priests are not doctors or lawyers, whose oaths may be qualified by statute: the confidentiality of the the confessional is absolute and unconditional and not within the power of Church or state to legislate limits on.

  • Agree or not, don’t be confused. The implication in some of the comments is that no absolution is given. One’s absolution is not the issue, in this case. And, one might question if one who is unwilling to confess in such a situation is truly repenting of their sins.

  • Chicagoatty

    Apart from the moral and religious objections to picking and choosing when to respect the seal of confession, here is a practical one: it is the promise of confidentiality that permits the sex abuser to confess and seek absolution in the first place. If you remove that promise, he won’t make the confession at all. So, the choice is not between reporting confessing abusers and not reporting them. The choice is between having access to a confessing abuser in a confidential forum so that he can be spiritually guided or having no access to him at all.

  • Chicagoatty

    This misses the point of confession. It is not meant to be conditioned on public self-incrimination. Indeed, the millenia old tradition specifically does not require that, and priests are forbidden to condition absolution on public self-incrimination. Repentence requires true sorrow and a commitment to cease the sin in the future, not a confession to the police.

  • S. Keegan

    An understandable opinion, and I’m not arguing that those who have committed heinous crimes should not receive temporal punishment. They are rightfully subject to society’s laws. Mother Church, however, is not an agent of Earthly justice; she is a purveyor of divine grace. The Sacrament of Reconciliation exists as an implement by which the apostolic ministers carry out their sacred duty to forgive the sins of the penitent, an authority conferred by Our Lord Himself. The grace of Christ is freely given without precondition, and it would be anathema for the Church, herself the Bride of Christ, to place a stumbling block in the path of those who would come seeking that grace.

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  • Jim

    my only question is..where does it stop? what other equally horrible crimes will covered by the seal of confession? …….slippery slope time here