I’m an atheist and a foreigner, so you might think that automatically discounts me from having any insight on clerical sex abuse and the attendant cover-up and the scandal issuing from reports into such. I probably should keep my trap shut but I will hesitantly air an opinion.
The Cloynes report into clerical sex abuse has recently been published and Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald has gone on record to say that people who uncover information about sex abuse have a legal duty to report that information to the authorities, even if that means violating the sanctity of the confessional.
The argument one imagines the Church making to such a state of affairs is that it would undermine the practice of confession, as people who had done things that might warrant reporting, and would certainly therefore warrant confessing, would be deterred from confessing for fear of the legal repercussions.
I don’t know if they would make that argument, but it seems to me there is a cogent churchy rejoinder. My understanding of the act of confession is that it is only valid if the confessing individual is suitably contrite and remorseful. The church can’t just magic away the wickedness by fiat. God only looks pleasingly on acts of confession if the confessing person is moved by the appropriate sentiments.
Now, it seems to me, that a suitably contrite and remorseful person would not desire to avoid the secular consequences of vicious and illegal actions (assuming as we can assume that the secular law is just and fair). So if someone wanted to avoid, for example, information about their crimes against children reaching the appropriate secular legal authorities, that itself would show that they ought not to be absolved of those criminal sins, and any putative confession would merely be a charade.
This looks like a orthodox catholic line in support of the minister for children’s policy. How does that sound?