The controversy surrounding the legal and religious considerations regarding that priest failing to report the sexual abuse of a 14-year-old girl because of the “seal of confession” has brought a lot of concerns for me and for many others.
Being a Catholic, a parent and a former priest, initially I find that the general concept of not sharing what is heard in confession is indeed a great blessing, allowing the one confessing to freely acknowledge the wrong deed or action and then prepare for our good God’s forgiveness and, hopefully, for a change in our future related behaviors, supported with suggestions and directions from the priest hearing that confession.
Yet, in spite of this perspective, I feel that something is quite wrong with this situation. From the information made public, this young girl did not do anything wrong. She did not commit a sin. Based upon basic moral standards, someone else had sinned, not her. She was used and abused and a victim, not the illegal sinning perpetrator. Her confessing seems really to be sharing what she had experienced and then seeking love, help and guidance from someone who she was taught that she could trust, much like those struggling and hurting individuals that Jesus himself often interacted with in a caring and concerned manner.
This was a situation, as I see it, where because of the age of the individual, some family member, the child protective agency, or a counselor/teacher should have been notified. Perhaps, even having a more informal meeting with the priest, encouraging her to divulge the information herself would have been very beneficial.
While such a decision might technically be a violation of the literal concept of “confidentiality,” it would truly be a more helpful and healthy road on life’s journey for that young girl, who was just at an age where she was beginning to understand more about the implications of such a situation, as well as beginning to embrace and implement the concept that God wants for all of us — to forgive and to love your neighbor as yourself. However, to do that, as Jesus so clearly showed us, one must first properly take care of oneself.
Even though I feel that the priest likely had good intentions not to break that seal of confession, perhaps he needed to ask, as all Christians need to daily do, that simple yet challenging question — What would Jesus do? While the law and rules will always be our helper and our guide, God’s Spirit is truly our lover and our leader.
special education teacher