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LeapOfFaith89

Priest Keeping Secrets

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I was watching an episode of Criminal Minds and the episode was about a serial killer that had confessed to a priest about his sins in full description. The whole episode was a war between finding the criminal and the priest's vow of silence. I don't want to spoil the ending if you haven't seen it but I don't agree with it. I think it's morally wrong to protect a serial killer, or just a killer, or anyone who hurts other people by hiding behind the shield of religion. While it was fictional it brought up some questions on whether it is an actual thing in the Bible, or if it's a Catholic thing to be silent about parishioners secrets, or just Hollywood nonsense? I'm not Catholic and I'm still in the middle of trying to get through the Old Testament. So I was wonder what your thought were. Is it better to keep your vow of silence or expose the killer?

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Interesting dilemma. But I think criminal acts and the like are STILL included during confessions, so a potential criminal can say all the things he has hidden in his chest to the priest and the priest wouldn't be able to do anything about it, as far as I know, aside from trying to convince the criminal to turn himself in and repent his ways. It's not the same as a psychiatrist, where they can break this vow of silence if the patient or another person is in danger, and they can only tell the person and only them, about the situation. But as for priests, the only thing they can do is to try and make the criminal confess their crimes themselves, and try to start a new life.

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It's called the "Seal of Confession".

 

There is an article on it on Wikipedia: - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seal_of_the_Confessional_%28Catholic_Church%29

 

According to Wikipedia it also applies in some Anglican and Lutheran churches.

 

It also applies in the Orthodox churches.

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If anyone sins in that he hears a public adjuration to testify, and though he is a witness, whether he has seen or come to know the matter, yet does not speak, he shall bear his iniquity.

(Leviticus 5:1 ESV)

It seems clear that God wants anyone having knowledge of illegal activity to reveal this knowledge to the government so justice can be done. This command takes precedence over any rule of secrecy imposed by any church. The person to whom the confession is made should keep it secret if doing so will not harm someone else, but if the one confessing is likely to repeat his crimes or some innocent person has been blamed for them it is a sin not to reveal to the police what he has said.

 

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If anyone sins in that he hears a public adjuration to testify, and though he is a witness, whether he has seen or come to know the matter, yet does not speak, he shall bear his iniquity.

(Leviticus 5:1 ESV)

It seems clear that God wants anyone having knowledge of illegal activity to reveal this knowledge to the government so justice can be done. This command takes precedence over any rule of secrecy imposed by any church. The person to whom the confession is made should keep it secret if doing so will not harm someone else, but if the one confessing is likely to repeat his crimes or some innocent person has been blamed for them it is a sin not to reveal to the police what he has said.

 

Only valid for Jews living under the Levitical code, and 2,000 years ago before it was abolished.

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Only valid for Jews living under the Levitical code, and 2,000 years ago before it was abolished.

 

So you believe that we are not obliged to bear witness to the truth, and disclose the iniquity of the ungodly? I hope they charged that Priest with perjury, an assessory to the crime, or for impeding Justice, especially if further victims resulted from not disclosing information about criminal activity. I don't have a problem suggesting that one that confesses sin to a Priest and does not repent is not Christian at all. Throw them outside the Church and expose their evil deeds to the congregation for excommunication 1 Corinthians 5. Obviously they have ignored such example set in Psalm 51. The only thing that differs from the Levitictal verse and now is that the Priest cannot make an offering to atone for their sins. Another words if a person does not repent or atone for their own sins with their fellow man which may include restitution, then it testifies, at the very least, for lack of penitence.

 

God bless,

William

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So you believe that we are not obliged to bear witness to the truth, and disclose the iniquity of the ungodly? I hope they charged that Priest with perjury, an assessory to the crime, or for impeding Justice, especially if further victims resulted from not disclosing information about criminal activity. I don't have a problem suggesting that one that confesses sin to a Priest and does not repent is not Christian at all. Throw them outside the Church and expose their evil deeds to the congregation for excommunication 1 Corinthians 5. Obviously they have ignored such example set in Psalm 51. The only thing that differs from the Levitictal verse and now is that the Priest cannot make an offering to atone for their sins. Another words if a person does not repent or atone for their own sins with their fellow man which may include restitution, then it testifies, at the very least, for lack of penitence.

 

God bless,

William

 

The issue is not what “we” in general ought or ought not to do. The issue is very specific. Should priests tell the legal authorities if a person confesses to having committed a crime during a sacramental confession?

 

The situation is similar to the communications between an attorney and a client. Such communications are privileged in law and the reason is much the same. Without such a privilege neither would function properly.

 

If a penitent knew that if he confessed a crime to a priest it would be reported to the police, then he would not make such a confession. There would be no gain for society and the penitent would not be reconciled with God and with the Church. Nor would the confessor have the opportunity to help him to deal with his sin.

 

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The issue is not what “we” in general ought or ought not to do. The issue is very specific. Should priests tell the legal authorities if a person confesses to having committed a crime during a sacramental confession?

 

The situation is similar to the communications between an attorney and a client. Such communications are privileged in law and the reason is much the same. Without such a privilege neither would function properly.

 

If a penitent knew that if he confessed a crime to a priest it would be reported to the police, then he would not make such a confession. There would be no gain for society and the penitent would not be reconciled with God and with the Church. Nor would the confessor have the opportunity to help him to deal with his sin.

 

I don't have a problem with laws that makes one think twice before confessing sin to any Priest. If anything I would hope the law makes them think further about the sacrifice of Christ and the tearing of the temple veil in two. As far as I am concerned, the government has a role to actively seek out evil, such Priest are impeding Justice.

 

God bless,

William

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I don't have a problem with laws that makes one think twice before confessing sin to any Priest. If anything I would hope the law makes them think further about the sacrifice of Christ and the tearing of the temple veil in two. As far as I am concerned, the government has a role to actively seek out evil, such Priest are impeding Justice.

 

God bless,

William

 

How are they impeding Justice?

 

If, as I suggest, no penitent would confess a crime to a priest in sacramental confession if he knew the priest would tell the police then he would not confess it. So we have two situations:

 

1. If the priest never tells the police then the police would not know.

 

2. If the priest does pass on information but then the penitent never confesses a crime to the priest then the police would not know.

 

The end result for the justice system is the same.

 

 

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How are they impeding Justice?

 

If, as I suggest, no penitent would confess a crime to a priest in sacramental confession if he knew the priest would tell the police then he would not confess it. So we have two situations:

 

1. If the priest never tells the police then the police would not know.

 

2. If the priest does pass on information but then the penitent never confesses a crime to the priest then the police would not know.

 

The end result for the justice system is the same.

 

 

If the police were led to believe that a person may of confessed a crime to a Priest, then that Priest would either lie or tell the truth. Not to mention, do you believe that a Priest should be compelled by the law to report the crime in question to a God ordained gov't to combat evil if he believes that the person may harm another? What you're suggesting is that they remain silent if they have knowledge of the truth and the iniquity of the person in question. It seems to me that a "Priest" is less than honest and does not feel compelled to follow or even submit to the laws of the land?

 

As far as I am concerned the benefit would be:

 

1) a biblical understanding of the unbiblical practice of confessing sins to a Priest

2) not involving an innocent party to the crime, where his further knowledge and impeding justice would make him guilty, if not compelled to report the crime

 

God bless,

William

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If the police were led to believe that a person may of confessed a crime to a Priest, then that Priest would either lie or tell the truth. Not to mention, do you believe that a Priest should be compelled by the law to report the crime in question to a God ordained gov't to combat evil if he believes that the person may harm another? What you're suggesting is that they remain silent if they have knowledge of the truth and the iniquity of the person in question. It seems to me that a "Priest" is less than honest and does not feel compelled to follow or even submit to the laws of the land?

 

As far as I am concerned the benefit would be:

 

1) a biblical understanding of the unbiblical practice of confessing sins to a Priest

2) not involving an innocent party to the crime, where his further knowledge and impeding justice would make him guilty, if not compelled to report the crime

 

God bless,

William

 

You just haven't got the point.

 

Once priests started to pass on information received in sacramental confession then all information would dry up.

 

No-one is going to tell a priest of a crime they have committed if they know it will be passed on to the police.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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You just haven't got the point.

 

Once priests started to pass on information received in sacramental confession then all information would dry up.

 

No-one is going to tell a priest of a crime they have committed if they know it will be passed on to the police.

 

 

I don't see what I don't get. But I do think you just don't like my answer.

 

God bless,

William

 

 

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I don't see what I don't get. But I do think you just don't like my answer.

 

God bless,

William

 

 

The rest of your answer was a diversion from the point I was discussing.

 

Added: To clarify that, as I see it there are at least four distinct issues here.

 

1. Would making priests report all crimes confessed in sacramental confession to the police help secular justice?

 

2. Would making priests report all crimes confessed in sacramental confession to the police help the penitent spiritually?

 

3. Would a priest, by concealing knowledge of a crime confessed in sacramental confession be committing a sin?

 

4. Is confessing sins to a priest unbiblical?

 

My answer to all is no. However, at the moment I am only arguing point 1 (though I touched on 2 in post #7)

 

Edited by Bede

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1. Would making priests report all crimes confessed in sacramental confession to the police help secular justice? My answer to all is no.
Reporting crimes to the police would not help secular justice. Really? Information about who committed a crime (and in some cases information that a crime had been committed that the police were unaware of) would not help secular justice. That makes no sense at all.
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Reporting crimes to the police would not help secular justice. Really? Information about who committed a crime (and in some cases information that a crime had been committed that the police were unaware of) would not help secular justice. That makes no sense at all.

 

I think my explanation in post #9 shows why.

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I think my explanation in post #9 shows why.
Not really. Your question and answer to that question in post 13 (i.e. "Would making priests report all crimes confessed in sacramental confession to the police help secular justice? My answer to all is no.") is demonstrably false.

 

 

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Not really. Your question and answer to that question in post 13 (i.e. "Would making priests report all crimes confessed in sacramental confession to the police help secular justice? My answer to all is no.") is demonstrably false.

 

And it makes me question an ulterior motive or agenda of the Catholic church. That is, besides the safety of others and justice for all, it appears to me safety and justice is thrown to the way side for church participation. If this were a Mosque there would be no question.

 

It is no wonder this is such a hot topic in the news whenever a charge is brought against a Priest, or when the Pope acts as though he is about to get his house in order. The question has been a rather consistent one, is the Catholic church responsible, and should it report criminal activity of not only its members but also its clergy.

 

God bless,

William

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I really cannot understand why you don't get the point.

 

I'll give it one more go and then give up.

 

In the UK downloading child pornography is a crime.

 

Let's say on average 5 Catholics a year, in sacramental confession, confess to downloading child pornography.

 

How many Catholics get reported to the police by priests for downloading child pornography?

 

Answer: zero! Because priests do not report crimes confessed in sacramental confession.

 

Let's suppose the Pope changed the rules and instructed priests that from next Monday all confessed crimes must be reported to the police.

 

Now how many Catholics (on average) will priests report to the police for downloading child pornography in the following year?

 

Answer zero! Because now no Catholics confess to reporting child pornography!!!!!!!

 

Why would anyone confess to such a crime knowing it would be reported to the police? They might as well walk into a police station and confess it.

 

 

 

 

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I really cannot understand why you don't get the point.

 

I'll give it one more go and then give up.

 

In the UK downloading child pornography is a crime.

 

Let's say on average 5 Catholics a year, in sacramental confession, confess to downloading child pornography.

 

How many Catholics get reported to the police by priests for downloading child pornography?

 

Answer: zero! Because priests do not report crimes confessed in sacramental confession.

 

Let's suppose the Pope changed the rules and instructed priests that from next Monday all confessed crimes must be reported to the police.

 

Now how many Catholics (on average) will priests report to the police for downloading child pornography in the following year?

 

Answer zero! Because now no Catholics confess to reporting child pornography!!!!!!!

 

Why would anyone confess to such a crime knowing it would be reported to the police? They might as well walk into a police station and confess it.

Oh I get your point. The reason is the same reason someone might confess to the police in the first place if guilty. They are truly repentant. Committing a crime and then not admitting to it, not facing justice, not seeking to right the wrong, is not repentant but cowardice. That person is seeking to save their own skin and that is pure selfishness. Like I said, I get your point. The problem is your point is moot. Anyone who goes to a priest or psychologist in order to confess their crimes in order to find relief for their conscience (or forgiveness) but then does not seek justice for their victims really does not care about justice or repentant.
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Oh I get your point. The reason is the same reason someone might confess to the police in the first place if guilty. They are truly repentant. Committing a crime and then not admitting to it, not facing justice, not seeking to right the wrong, is not repentant but cowardice. That person is seeking to save their own skin and that is pure selfishness. Like I said, I get your point. The problem is your point is moot. Anyone who goes to a priest or psychologist in order to confess their crimes in order to find relief for their conscience (or forgiveness) but then does not seek justice for their victims really does not care about justice or repentant.

 

When I go past a police station I note the queue of Protestants waiting to confess their misdemenours to the police

 

 

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When I go past a police station I note the queue of Protestants waiting to confess their misdemenours to the police.
I's not talking about only Catholics but anyone. That is why I added psychologist. I don't care if they are Catholics or Protestants. My point is the same either case. It is all well and good to confess ones crimes (or sins) when that person knows there will be no justice, no retribution, no real acknowledgment of the victims and the harm done to them. That is not taking responsibility for their actions.

 

 

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Well that is a tough one, and I am not a priest so I am not entirely sure what the whole protocol is for maintaining that vow of silence, but I would like to hope that in the case of serious crimes there is a moral obligation to make sure that justice is served. It seems that @William and others have a spirited debate going on here, and I do not really want to jump in on that. I am sure that there are ways to justify either maintaining the vow or breaking it, so I guess it is probably just a matter of personal choice and what the faith means to you. It is certainly an interesting question, though.

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I's not talking about only Catholics but anyone. That is why I added psychologist. I don't care if they are Catholics or Protestants. My point is the same either case. It is all well and good to confess ones crimes (or sins) when that person knows there will be no justice, no retribution, no real acknowledgment of the victims and the harm done to them. That is not taking responsibility for their actions.

 

 

I agree we should take responsibility for our actions. In the end we answer for our sins before God who is Justice.

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I agree we should take responsibility for our actions. In the end we answer for our sins before God who is Justice.
No doubt. But God also allows governments to dispense justice here and now. While true and complete justice is not possible in this world, nevertheless, some measure is and this is keeping with the will of God and his dictates to mankind.

 

 

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I would like to clarify the statements I made in earlier posts. If someone confesses a violation of the law and is repentant and no one will be hurt by not reporting the crime, there is no need to notify the authorities. If there is something he can do to make up for the harm he has done, silence would be conditional on his making restitution. If there is danger that he will commit other crimes or if someone else has been blamed for the crime he committed anyone, even a priest, should be required to notify the police.

 

This reminds me of a novel I recently read, The Confession, by John Grisham. A man raped and murdered a woman, and another man has been convicted of the crime and sentenced to death. Just a few days before the date of the execution the killer confesses his crime to a Lutheran pastor. The pastor is uncertain what to do because he doesn't know whether the man is telling the truth or not.

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