Irish government plans frontal assault on confessional secrecy
“The point is, if there is a law in the land, it has to be followed by everybody. There are no exceptions, there are no exemptions," said children’s minister Frances Fitzgerald. Quickly dismissing the sanctity of the confessional, which has been recognized by governments for centuries, Fitzgerald said: "I'm not concerned--neither is the government,--bout the internal laws, the rules governing any body.”
“The law of the land should not be stopped by a crozier or a collar,” Prime Minister Enda Kenny said.
Ian Elliott, the head of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church, disagreed. While welcoming the legislation in principle, Elliott said that they was no need to challenge the confessional seal. “To break it would antagonize relationships,” he warned, and the Catholic Church would certainly fight against passage of the legislation as it stands.
“The Catholic Church and the State are on a collision course” on the question, the Irish Times reported, saying that the legislation as it is framed “is likely to encounter significant resistance within the church.” That is an understatement. Since the Catholic Church requires priests to maintain absolute secrecy about what they hear in sacramental confessions, all priests would face a moral obligation to defy the law.
Thus if the sweeping legislation becomes law, Ireland could see a return of the days in which a priest could face imprisonment for the “crime” of acting as a Catholic priest.