|Alan Shatter - Wikipedia|
The Irish Justice Minister gave a statement on 25 April 2012 saying that the sex abuse reporting bill, due to be introduced later this year in Ireland, would compel priests to break the seal of the confessional. In the event of a failure to report sex abuse, even if it is disclosed during Confession to a priest, a jail term of up to ten years could be imposed.
Alan Shatter apparently said: “I would expect that if there was someone going to confession who was a serial sex abuser, I don't know how anyone could live with their conscience if they didn't refer that to the gardai.” He also apparently made mention that existing laws already require the reporting of other crimes without providing any exemption for priests.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church makes the confidential nature of anything disclosed in Confession quite clear:
“Given the delicacy and greatness of this ministry and the respect due to persons, the Church declares that every priest who hears confessions is bound under very severe penalties to keep absolute secrecy regarding the sins that his penitents have confessed to him. He can make no use of knowledge that confession gives him about penitents' lives. This secret, which admits of no exceptions, is called the "sacramental seal," because what the penitent has made known to the priest remains "sealed" by the sacrament.”[i]
What is interesting is that Alan Shatter, who was born into a Jewish family and is apparently an orthodox Jew, seems to be particularly keen on persecuting Catholic priests. In 2011, Shatter made public statements praising RTE for airing an episode of Prime Time, titled “Mission To Prey”, on Irish television. The episode falsely accused Fr. Kevin Reynolds of raping a young girl and fathering a child with her while he was a missionary in Kenya. I wrote about it in a post on my Blog here.
Shatter of course later, when it was revealed that the accusations were completely baseless, made a U-turn and withdrew his support for the television programme. However, where Alan Shatter was very quick to issue statements of condemnation of Fr Kevin Reynolds and to support RTE for having the courage to air the accusations, he has, almost a year after the incident, still not had the decency to apologise to Fr. Kevin Reynolds. This even though it has been shown beyond all doubt that Fr Kevin Reynolds did not do what he was accused of doing.[ii] I can't help but wonder why Alan Shatter has not yet done so?