“Secret of the confessional is inviolable”

After the pedophilia scandal that has engulfed the Catholic Church in France, the Minister of the Interior of Paris, Gérald Darmanin, he said that priests have “an imperative obligation” to warn about cases of harassment they become aware of in the confessional. But the president of the French bishops’ conference, the archbishop Eric Moulins-Beaufort, he replied stating that the secret of confession “is stronger than the laws of the Republic”.

The shock report

This week an independent investigation commissioned by the bishops themselves was presented which denounced that between 1950 and 2020, at least 216,000 children were allegedly victims of harassment by a number of priests ranging from 2,900 to 3,200. The number of victims, mostly children aged 10 to 13, however, rises to 330 thousand if one takes into consideration the abuses perpetrated by lay officials such as deacons or catechism teachers. Pope Francis spoke of a “moment of shame” for the Church and promised that such acts will never be repeated. But there is obviously a disagreement on how to deal with them in the future between secular and religious power.

The debate on the secret

“There is professional secrecy for lawyers, for doctors and there is the secrecy of confession, recognized by our law for a long time. But in the case of crimes that affect children and to avoid recidivism, it would seem normal to be able to remove the secrecy “, Said Darmanin.” The secret of confession, imposed on priests by canon law, is not contrary to French criminal law, “Moulins-Beaufort said in a note, arguing that confession” is also a moment during which a victim, for example a child, can talk about what he has suffered, and be reassured of his innocence “, and” this time can therefore be, at the encouragement of the priest who receives this confession, a first step towards the liberation of the word, to the outside the sacrament “. In short, according to the bishop, the priest cannot report what he is told to the police, but he could try to push the child to do it himself.

Two weights two measures?

The answer, however, created controversy, also because the president a few months ago Emmanuel Macron launched a battle against “Islamic separatism”, and approved a law “that strengthens the principles of the Republic”, intended to combat any religious separatism, in order to always enforce national laws even when they contradict one’s own faith. “We cannot say to other religions: you must respect the laws of the Republic and then make an exception” commented Marlène Schiappa, Minister of Citizenship.

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