Two bills in Delaware and Vermont, proposed by Democrats Eric Morrison and Richard Sears, have created a stir among Catholic advocates who believe that these bills will harm the church’s tradition of the Holy Sacrament of Confession. The proposed bills aim to remove the privilege of “seal of confession” that allows Catholic priests to withhold information shared during the confession process to protect children from abuse. Even so, lawmakers are determined to implement mandatory reporting that includes the Catholic Church to protect children fully from abuse or neglect. However, Catholic advocates warn that it could be a slippery slope when it comes to protections for religious freedom.
So much for protecting religious freedom https://t.co/7onRx3VJlY
— Daily Caller (@DailyCaller) March 27, 2023
President of Catholic Action for Faith and Family, Thomas McKenna, is concerned about the real persecution of the Catholic faith. Confession is not therapy, group discussion, or a mob, but when a person comes to share their sins, the priest is like Christ. It would be unfair to put a priest in jail for not revealing someone’s sins. This would be religious persecution, because it infringes upon the First Amendment right to worship God. Father Aquinas Guilbeau, a Dominican Friar and fellow with the Institute for Human Ecology (IHE), believes that a confessional is a sanctuary where Catholics can unburden themselves, without fear of repercussions, and the confidentiality is essential.
Catholic doctrine considers the confession of sins to a priest and asking for forgiveness from God one of the sacraments of the church. The practice is of religious significance, and revealing the information disclosed is punishable by excommunication. The proposed bills appear to single out the Catholic Church, likely following the discovery of rampant sexual abuse of minors by priests. Over the past few years, several reports of abuse have been released, and Pope Francis has repeatedly condemned it, as did Pope Emeritus Benedict before him.
Andrea Picciotti-Bayer, strategy consultant, media fellow, mother of ten, and director of the Conscience Project, warns that these bills will not help prevent abuse, and lifting the privilege will expose vulnerable people. In her opinion, confession is often the first step for the abused to recognize that a crime is being committed, and there is no justification for lifting the privilege. Ed Condon, media fellow at IHE, and canon lawyer is confident that the bills will not pass based on an observation that they are unenforceable. There is no way to put a cop in the confessional to ensure that the priest is reporting instances of child abuse.
Brian Burch, the president of CatholicVote, is concerned about state government’s attempts to invade Catholics’ practices. He believes that their goal is to harm and diminish the church’s role in society and undermine its efforts to serve its members. The Catholic Church needs a place where Catholics can unburden themselves without fear of repercussions.
The proposed bills that remove “the seal of confession,” that allows Catholic priests to maintain confidentiality, have created a stir amongst Catholics who believe it will harm the Catholic church’s tradition of the Holy Sacrament and religious freedom. Confession is a sacrament of the church and a sanctuary where Catholics can seek forgiveness from God. The proposed bills single out the Catholic Church, even though several reports have uncovered abuse by its priests. It is essential to protect children from abuse, but punishing religious beliefs and practices is not a viable solution. All Delawareans should be mandatory reporters of child abuse and neglect, but Catholic advocates argue that it could be a slippery slope when it comes to protections for religious freedom.