Tuesday, March 04, 2003

I guess I'm unable to leave this issue alone just yet, the issue of the Maryland bill that would have mandated reporting pf sexual abuse. Here is Cardinal McCarrick on Civil Disobedience
instructing his priest to disobey a law that would break the confessional seal. It would be quite admirable, only that there was no such law proposed from what I can tell.

Some Things One Cannot Do

Thinking of You

By Cardinal Theodore McCarrick

I don't know anyone - parent, priest or passer-by - who hasn't had his or her heart broken over the pain that victims of the sexual abuse of minors have suffered at the hands of an unworthy minister of religion. The news reports of the past year have so often reminded us of this tragedy and even though probably 90 percent of the cases are decades old, it still hurts us all. Here in Washington we have thanked God that for many years we have had a comprehensive policy to protect children and to cooperate with the civil authorities when a priest is involved. For us Catholics when this crime is committed by a priest, it is so much worse because of the trust we have placed in our priests.

One of the reasons for our trust has always been the confidence we have in a priest's total and sacramental silence about anything we may say in the confessional. History is filled with stories of priests who suffered even death rather than break that solemn seal which guarantees the penitent that the knowledge of what is said in the sacrament of penance belong only to the priest and to God.

Unfortunately I must tell you that bills have been introduced in the legislature of the State of Maryland that would make it a crime for a priest to be faithful to that solemn sacramental obligation. These bills would require a priest by law to report what he heard in Confession if any kind of abuse of a child is mentioned. I am not condemning the legislators who are promoting this bill. I am presuming that they are only interested in helping children and not in attacking the Catholic Church and any other religious body which would have such protection for spiritual conversations. However what they are proposing is a grave violation of our Church's Canon Law, and I must oppose it with whatever authority I have, and you, dear friends, need to know this.

If this bill were to pass, I shall instruct all the priests in the Archdiocese of Washington who serve in Maryland to ignore it and to indicate they are acting on direct orders from me as their archbishop and religious superior. On this issue, I will gladly plead civil disobedience and willingly - if not gladly - go to jail. Please understand that I write this to you as your servant and your friend and as one, who however unworthy, in the mystery of God's providence, is called to be your bishop. I cannot allow three state senators and eight members of the House of Delegates who are the proposers of this legislation to force our priests to violate the sacramental seal of Confession. If there is a gauntlet involved in this process, then I throw it down now.

While there is still time to prevent this attack on the sacramental seal of Confession, I ask you to write or phone your own state legislators in Annapolis and tell them how you feel about the proposed law and how it affects your rights as a Catholic American and a citizen of this state of Maryland. If in spite of all you do, it gets into law, I'm happy to assure you that, even behind bars, I'll be thinking of you.

I happened to run into a friend of mine from Iowa yesterday who is in town temporarily. She is on her diocesan sexual abuse board. She said that Iowa recently passed a similar law mandating reporting of sexual abuse of minors and the dioceses supported the law especially as it explicitly exempted confession.

I also spoke with a Dallas lawyer who has been involved in their diocesan sex abuse cases for years and he felt that the proposed and now defeated MD bill was very well written to protect the confessional seal. He noted that the Texas law in this matter is very severe. In the local diocesan paper there was an article on this issue and what I found interesting was that, not once did they quote from the proposed bill, however they mentioned a Kentucky bill presently under consideration that proposes to break the confessional seal and they actually quoted the offending passage. I thought that was revealing that they quote the Kentucky bill but not the easily accesible MD bill.

So what is the motivation? Because even outside of the implications for the Catholic Church, don't we want madated reporting required for Boys Scouts, Schools, Youth organizations, etc? We do, don't we?


Post a Comment

<< Home