ACCORDING to the plans put forward by Justice Minister Alan Shatter, priests could be jailed for up to five years for failing to disclose information regarding serious offences against a child, even if this was obtained in confession, (Irish Independent, July 15).
Church law relating to the seal of confession stretches back to the Council of the Lateran in 1215, which declared that a priest should be deposed if he broke the seal. Present canon law adds on automatic excommunication for any priest who does so.
Some clerical sex-abuse offenders deliberately tie the hands of their superiors by admitting to them their sexual abuse during confession.
It is recommended professional practice for counsellors and psychotherapists to warn their clients that they cannot be bound by the norms of absolute confidentiality if grave revelations are made during the course of the session.
Equally, it should be made very plain that the 'seal of confession' cannot be used/abused to hide criminal offences, especially against children.
Malahide, Co Dublin