Friday, March 26, 2010

Guilty silence

“In some English-speaking countries, but also in France, if bishops become aware of crimes committed by their priests outside the sacramental seal of Confession, they are obliged to report them to the judicial authorities.”

Notice, under this principle, that any sex crime which a priest might admit to his confessor is automatically exempt from criminal referral. Given the “seal of the Confessional,” not only does the confessor have no duty to report a sex crime by a fellow priest to the civil authorities, but he has a duty not to report such a crime to the civil authorities.


  1. Steve,

    Thanks for your response to my question on 1 Timothy here: It was most helpful.

    I have another question arising from 1 Timothy as it applies to the pedophile scandal within the Catholic Church.

    1 Tim 5:19 says "19Do not entertain an accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses."

    Usually in sexual matters involving a church leader, there is only going to be one other witness, namely the person who is the subject of the abuse (or the co-adulterer, and so forth). So the two or three witnesses (apparently being the precondition of 'entertaining an accusation' would rarely exist.

    My questions are:

    1. What light can you shed on the verse?

    2. Do you think two or three witnesses are required per individual allegation or per category of misconduct or what? For example, in the case of rampant Catholic pedoophiles, cumulatively there would be more than two or three witnesses but individual charges would not.

  2. 1. The lack of independent corroboration in he said/she said cases can render many of these accusations unjudiciable.


    2. Sometimes there's circumstantial evidence.

    3. If the accused is a repeat-offender, then there may be serial multiple-attestation. Even if you only have one witness per encounter, if there's a pattern of abuse, then you may have several different witnesses.

    4. This was also written before the advent of modern forensics. There are now types of incriminating evidence over and above eyewitness testimony.

    Likewise, hidden cameras and tape recorders.