Saturday, July 16, 2011

Lament for Éire—UPDATED

And so the ideological assault begins. From Catholic Culture:

Irish government leaders have insisted that they will not allow the secrecy of the confessional to limit the scope of new legislation that would require reporting of all complaints of child abuse.
“The point is, if there is a law in the land, it has to be followed by everybody. There are no exceptions, there are no exemptions," said children’s minister Frances Fitzgerald. Quickly dismissing the sanctity of the confessional, which has been recognized by governments for centuries, Fitzgerald said: "I'm not concerned — neither is the government, — about the internal laws, the rules governing any body.”
“The law of the land should not be stopped by a crozier or a collar,” Prime Minister Enda Kenny said. ...
“The Catholic Church and the State are on a collision course” on the question, the Irish Times reported, saying that the legislation as it is framed “is likely to encounter significant resistance within the church.” That is an understatement. Since the Catholic Church requires priests to maintain absolute secrecy about what they hear in sacramental confessions, all priests would face a moral obligation to defy the law.
Thus if the sweeping legislation becomes law, Ireland could see a return of the days in which a priest could face imprisonment for the “crime” of acting as a Catholic priest.
 Of course, this begs the question of whether child abusers confess their crimes to priests. Since no one has done a thorough investigation of the matter, all we have is anecdotal evidence, which as Dromore Bishop John McAreavy says suggests they don't. 

Irish legal experts, according to the Irish Independent, also warn that the move could eventually undermine the lawyer-client relationship. Just so; the confidentiality of both lawyer-client and doctor-patient relationships are analogous to the privacy of the confessional; the same rationale that aims itself at the priest-penitent relationship can be transferred all too easily.

Besides, just how do these brainiacs expect to enforce this measure ... sit outside churches on Saturday with barrel microphones aimed at the boxes, in the fleeting hope that a wandering pedophile will suddenly decide to bare his soul of his pernicious crime? Let me remind you, folks: Nothing in the rules requires a Catholic to make his confession in the box; the seal applies whenever and wherever the priest and penitent invoke it. 

Let me also remind you — since you Irish lot seem to have forgotten — for many, many years the faithful of Ireland held religious ceremonies in the farthest reaches from civilization to escape the eyes of a persecuting government.

O Ireland, country of my ancestors, did you fight to preserve yourself as a holy people for so many centuries only to abandon the Faith at the first taste of prosperity? Does the Breastplate of St. Patrick now lie to rust beside the Gàe Bulg of Cù Chulainn?

Update: July 19, 2011
According to the Catholic News Agency, it appears that the proposed law will unite the orthodox and liberal wings of the Catholic Church in Ireland on at least one point.

Father Tony Flannery, a priest with the Association of Catholic Priests (which has shown reluctance to accept the new English translation of the Roman Missal), sent an email to CNA stating that the ACP hasn't taken the proposed law very seriously; as I suggested above, they believe the law isn't "workable". Apparently most confessionals in Ireland are like the old boxes of my childhood and in the movies: “'When a person confesses in the confessional box, the priest would not normally know who they are, or indeed be able to see them,' he explained. 'So how is he to report them?'"

Father Flannery also reinforces the lack of anecdotal evidence of sexual abuse being confessed, and also brings up the implications for other legally confidential relationships. He also brings up something I hadn't thought of: the possibility that reporting would be required for other crimes. “Why make this one the only crime to be reported?”

In sum, Fr. Flannery believes the whole thing will blow over in a few months. BUT,  “if this does come to law — which I do not expect — priests will resist it strongly.

Or maybe they'll go out into the fields and woods to hear confessions. Like Irish priests did under British rule.