How should we view things said in the Roman Catholic confessional? If it is just a matter of internal rules, then it does not matter – Roman Catholicism is a cult, a non-Christian organisation, so if people wish to be subjugated by its teachings, it is up to them. But, when it spills over into the general population, serious questions should be asked of this unbiblical activity. In particular I am thinking of grave sins such as murder, violence, abuse and other serious crimes. Does Rome have a right to keep the information secret, thus protecting those who commit crimes?
Even amongst some Catholic priests there are a variety of views on whether or not the confessional can be used to protect criminals (I can think of other situations, too, but criminal activities are the subject of this particular article).
Duty of Priests
It is the “absolute duty of priests not to disclose anything they learn from penitents during the course of the Sacrament of Penance.” (Wikipedia) This is the usual view amongst Catholics and priests, and it is rigidly adhered to by Rome.
The Sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation, as with so many teachings in Catholicism, is based on erroneous beliefs based on heretical interpretations of scripture. For example, John 20:23 and James 5:16. So long as the criminal utters the right words, he will be ‘absolved’ by the priest, and is rendered free of guilt and will be ‘saved’. But, this is a mish-mash of understanding!
“Whose soever sins ye remit, they are remitted unto them; and whose soever sins ye retain, they are retained.”
This appears to give priests the divine right to forgive a penitent and to save him. But, it does not! I give the following reasons:
The priesthood is not valid. Jesus removed the hierarchical clerical priesthood and replaced it with a personal priesthood – every saved person is his or her own priest, able to communicate with God and confess sins to receive forgiveness. When Christ came, people no longer needed to go to a priest for any reason. And, as the priesthood is no longer valid and does not exist in God’s eyes, to go to a priest for ANY reason is invalid and does nothing.
The statement by Christ applied only to the Apostles, as the ‘foundation’ of the Church on earth. In this they were following the commands of the ‘chief cornerstone’ of the Church, Jesus Christ. The statement does not apply to anyone else after this foundation was laid.
Rome teaches that Peter was the first pope, and so all popes who followed in his line were given apostolic succession. Not so. This is unbiblical and lacking in actual fact. Peter has never been proved to have been in Rome, and there is no biblical suggestion that the apostolate can be ‘passed on’; rather an apostle is chosen by God. The original apostolate ended with the death of the last apostle; that is, the end of the line of apostles chosen by Christ. There have been no others (‘apostle’ can also be used to describe a great, saved preacher, but the term does not apply to this discussion. See article on ‘Apostles’). This means that Rome cannot attribute its teachings directly to the apostles, unless the teachings are taught in scripture (which they are not).
The Apostles were sent out to the world just as Jesus was sent out by the Father (v21). After telling the apostles this, He gave them the Holy Ghost, thus equipping them spiritually for the task of preaching (v22). Next comes the controversial text: “Whose soever sins ye remit they are remitted unto them and whose soever sins ye retain they are retained.”
This text does not speak of confessing to a priest. It simply speaks of repentance; it does not even mention salvation. And, if we are strict, the meanings can be varied. ‘Remit’ can refer to forgiveness or to leave, to suffer, or to let/let alone, or to forsake. It is my view that Jesus, in this text, is talking about forgiveness of sins. In whom? The verse does not tell us! If it refers to the unbeliever, then he repents and is then saved, and the apostle confirms it. On the other hand, if it refers to a saved person, then it means he repents and all is well, for he is already saved.
Romanists Misread Scripture
But, this is not the actual thing to bear in mind. The Greek structure of this text tells us the apostles, by forgiving someone their sins, is doing so because they are already forgiven in Heaven. Thus, they forgive only because they are following the prompting of the Holy Spirit, Who tells them the forgiveness is appropriate. On the other hand, it might not be appropriate... something the priest in the confessional does not appear to think about. It means, in effect, that even if a priest is allowed by God (which he is not) to listen to someone’s confession, he cannot absolve the one confessing sins by his own volition. He is merely passing-on what God has already judged to be suitable.
I believe this is the actual situation, partly because only God can forgive to salvation, and also because another text uses similar language: “And I say also unto thee, that thou art Peter, and upon this rock I will build My Church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it. And I will give unto thee the keys of the Kingdom of Heaven: and whatsoever thou shalt bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever thou shalt loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven”. The Greek text tells us that Peter could bind or loose ONLY those who were bound or loosed in Heaven previously. Thus, God, not Peter, decides who will be given favour or not. Peter only ‘passes on’ the judgment of God, already made.
Indeed, this is what every pastor and mature Christian does all the time. He reads scripture, meditates upon it, and uses what he knows to apply his judgment to everything put before him. He can do it because he knows what God says about such situations, and so applies the precedent to whatever situation that emerges.
We can do nothing unless God firstly illuminates the situation, and the same ‘rule’ is given to Peter. We know this because Peter was not the ‘Rock’ on which the Church is built. The ‘Rock’ is Jesus Christ, God, and it is He Who prompts us to use the keys appropriately. A Catholic priest, then, has no special privileges. In fact, he has no privileges at all, because, in God’s eyes, he does not really exist, for he is unsaved, sinfully takes a position that has been removed by Christ, and attempts to take on the role of mediator, when only Jesus fulfils that role! Thus, the penitent cannot be forgiven by the priest, and cannot receive absolution!
Also, the ‘penitent’ cannot seek forgiveness from someone he has not offended. If he has offended God, then only God can forgive him. If he has offended another human being, then he must approach that person for forgiveness, not a priest.
Apart from this, no priest can know if a penitent is actually remorseful over his sin/s. Furthermore, I would strongly suggest that if a person enters a confession box and secretly confesses to a crime, then he cannot be seen as penitent. This is because he is not approaching the one he has offended. And, in the case of serious criminality, he has not confessed to the police.
Crime Must Be Dealt With
This is vital, for a serious crime MUST be dealt with by judges (called ‘magistrates’ in scripture) according to criminal law. Where there is serious crime, the criminal must receive judgment and punishment. This is required by God. If it is not enacted, then the penitent is not really penitent, but is just offloading guilt onto another person, without fear of consequences brought upon him by law. The priest has no authority to absolve him of sin, or to imply that such an action gives the penitent ‘salvation’. Let us, say, assume a killer kills ten times. He goes to his priest ten times, and admits to each murder separately. The priest then absolves him every time. Does that mean he is ‘saved’ ten times?
If the killer confesses but does not go to the police, it means the priest is complicit in the crimes committed and is therefore as guilty as the one he absolves! This is especially so if he could have stopped another murder by telling the police. If a criminal goes to an accident department because he is shot, the doctors have a duty to tell the police, who will then investigate and/or arrest. What makes the priest different? (This also goes for Anglicans who copy the Roman confessional).
Modern confessions can now be taken face-to-face. Thus the priest can watch the person’s face and judge his non-verbal responses and attitudes. If the criminal goes through the motions of the confessional, the priest should be able to detect if the penitent is genuine or not; I can usually tell if a person is genuine. But, the priest will give absolution even if he knows the penitent is not truly repenting. However, many confessionals still have grills, so the face cannot be seen.
As with most Romanist traditions, there is no scriptural basis for what they believe, say or do. In this case the confessional rules only came about in the 12th century, showing conclusively that it had no traditional rules beforehand. Many of these rules - the Decretum Gratiani - were compiled by Gratian, a jurist (Latin for someone who is a legal scholar) and Italian monk. Though his collection of decrees have not been recognised as official, his rules concerning the confessional are obeyed rigidly.
The Decretum, published about 1151, said "Let the priest who dares to make known the sins of his penitent be deposed." And that the priest who violates this ‘law’ “should be made a lifelong, ignominious wanderer”. (Secunda pars, dist. VI, c. II).
Canon 21 (Fourth Council of the Lateran) was binding on the whole church. Referring to absolute secrecy in the confessional, it says:
“Let the priest absolutely beware that he does not by word or sign or by any manner whatever in any way betray the sinner: but if he should happen to need wiser counsel let him cautiously seek the same without any mention of person. For whoever shall dare to reveal a sin disclosed to him in the tribunal of penance we decree that he shall be not only deposed from the priestly office but that he shall also be sent into the confinement of a monastery to do perpetual penance.” (Hefele-Leclercq, "Histoire des Conciles" at the year 1215; Mansi or Harduin, "Coll. conciliorum")
An English canonist (expert in Catholic laws), William Lyndwood, said that the priest is bound to keep confessional words secret because it is a ‘sacrament’. This is yet another lie, for Rome claims there to be seven sacraments whereas the Bible has only two (baptism and communion). So, not only is the confession heard by a man who has no biblical role to play, but he acts out his role on the basis of a false sacrament. The priest has no ability to forgive someone, because the offence was not against himself, and he then gives absolution (salvation) though only God can do so. No priest can absolve a man of sin and save him.
Canon Law says "The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason." (983 §1). Only an ordained priest can hear and absolve what is confessed, this oath being a ‘seal’ on silence. Yet, a translator who hears and translates is bound by the same rules as the priest (983§2).
Aquinas goes to the farthest degree by saying that the priest knows the confession “not as man, but as God knows it”. (Supp. 11 I ad 2). This is a mighty claim made for a priesthood that does not have worth or existence in God’s eyes! It says that the priest (who, by definition, is unsaved) has the actual knowledge of God when hearing and absolving the sins of others. This is blasphemous.
In a very few instances a penitent can give permission for a priest to mention parts of what has been confessed, so long as his identify is not made known. The local priest may not give absolution in all serious cases. Some must be given only by the authorities in Rome. Thus, both Rome and the ‘higher’ authority are complicit!
What About the Police?
A priest can refuse to hear a confession if the issue is serious, or if he thinks the penitent is not really genuine. The priest may also advise the penitent to confess to the police, but he will not tell police of any serious crime. It is a ridiculous fact that many police authorities allow this confessional ‘law’ to remain, even when a priest knows the contents of a confession and knows who the person is. Yet, if an ordinary person hears a criminal confess what he has done, he can go to police and they can then follow it up. If a person knows of a serious crime and does not advise the police, he can even be charged for the crime by being complicit.
Concerning this ‘seal’ of confession to secrecy, one writer says:
“The priest has no right to betray the trust, or to harass or coerce or otherwise persuade the penitent to ‘do the right thing’. The conscience is sovereign and absolute. The confessor is not an extension of the long arm of the law. Hard as it may seem, even criminals need to have a person to whom they can speak and whom they can trust absolutely. Every Catholic has the right, and so does every criminal Catholic. Even criminals have rights. And if you do not think that is the case, beware, because you one day may be branded a criminal or find yourself on the wrong side of the law.” (Catholic Herald, Nov 2014).
This is typical of Catholic odd thinking, but it is to be expected since true Catholics are not Christians. The ‘trust’ a penitent might have in a priest and the rules of confession are NOT equal to justice or the demands of the law. If a man is truly being hounded by police (as in some countries) I could understand why secrecy is maintained. But, if a man confesses, for example, that he has murdered, the priest has no right to keep that fact secret, nor is there any human right on the part of the criminal to expect such secrecy. This is because in scripture the real criminal must expect the full weight of the magistrate to fall upon him. And where the penitent says he is going to commit another serious crime, the priest becomes complicit by staying silent. He is also complicit by not reporting a serious crime already committed, for he denies the commands of God by allowing a serious sin to go unpunished.
Can We Keep Serious Crimes Secret?
Some Catholics, in other twisted arguments, quote scripture to say we can keep secrets. But, this does not mean we may keep things like murder or any other grave sin secret, especially when there are God’s penalties to consider. The same Catholic commentator (catholic.com) says that if we expect a priest to divulge the secrets of a serious criminal then we must expect the same of defence lawyers.
Though the comparison is not quite the same, I tend to think, personally, that a defence lawyer who KNOWS his client is guilty, should not keep back details of confessions or crimes he knows about. If his client is given freedom because the truth has not been made known, then, to me, the lawyer is complicit in the same crimes. Frankly, if a serial or serious criminal does not get his ‘rights’ it would not worry me at all. The same priest-writer adds:
“... the Bible requires us to confess our sins to others (Jas 5:16). On the Protestant model one confesses to just anybody and does so for purely therapeutic purposes, not for absolution. Even in that model the confider-confidant privilege would be needed. People need to know that their sins will not be publicly revealed, or they will not confess them.
Finally, Catholics believe that the priest, in administering sacraments, assumes the role of Christ; what is said by the penitent is as inviolate as anything said directly to God in prayer.”
Yes, we must confess to each other – no mention in James of a priest! And there is no absolution in this action, unless, of course, the one hearing the confession is the one who has been wronged. He can forgive the one confessing, but he cannot say that the offending one is thereby saved. Salvation does not come through a priest or by confession to a priest – it is inherent in election before the world began.
It is also part of Christian fellowship not to mention to others sins confessed to him by another Christian. But, if those sins are serious and public already, there is a three-stage process of discipline to follow. Also, in the case of illegality, no Christian has the right to expect secrecy or silence. The Catholic says that if these sins are made public, then the person might not confess them at all.
What this shows me is that the ‘penitent’ is not genuine after all. If such a person thinks he can offload his guilt onto someone else, thus burdening them unjustly, then I would not think much of that person. Part of genuine repentance is putting the matter right, as far as possible. If a person has done something very serious and does not wish it to be made known, then I would not be worried if he did not confess his wrongdoing. If he cannot bear his own guilt, it is his problem. But, if he confesses he cannot expect silence or a non-legal intervention.
The last part of the statement above says that Catholics view the priest as acting in the stead of Christ, and anything said to God can be said to the priest. This definitely has no basis in scripture! The priest does not exist by God’s fiat. Nor is his role biblical, but is in violation of the work of Jesus. Jesus told us that each of us is his own priest, who has direct access to God, through Jesus. We no longer must approach God through an earthly priest, and no earthly priest can take the place of Christ on this earth! It should be added that whilst someone might confess directly to God, it will make no difference if he does not put matters right. God will not forgive an ongoing state of sin or crime.
For reasons not clear, Catholic laws are adhered to even by civil courts, but, so far as I know, no court would likewise adhere to judgments made by Protestant disciplinary measures. This was made certain in a case where a Catholic official abused a young girl (2015, ncronline.org). The priest was told of three crimes, but he did nothing.
Any Exceptions to the Seal?
A question was asked. “Are there exceptions to the seal of confession?” (Interview with Cardinal Mauro Piacenza, Major Penitentiary of the Vatican, Nov. 2014). The Cardinal answered:
“No. The seal is absolute and inviolable I am obliged to maintain confidentiality regarding everything that is said to me. The penitent does not speak to the priest as a man; rather, he or she speaks to God. The confessor does not even know what he has felt, because as a man he does not know what he has heard.” (aleteia.org).
Note the blasphemy? The cardinal said that the penitent is not speaking to a priest or man, but to God! This cannot be tolerated, especially if the priest’s silence leads the penitent to commit even more serious crimes. The silence of the priest is referred to in Rome as a ‘religious right’! The priest who speaks out would be excommunicated (a fate that would do him a favour), but the same rules apply even to, say, a nurse who inadvertently hears a confession (canonlawmadeeasy.com). Try silencing me if I nursed in that room!
A priest who hears of a serious crime can try to make the penitent stop further crimes. But, nothing is said of previous crimes, which must be dealt with by the law. The priest can also urge the penitent to hand himself in to the police, and can even accompany him to the police station. Then there is the absurdity: if the penitent agrees to the priest telling the police what was said to him, the penitent would have to repeat the same statements OUTSIDE the confessional! For goodness sake! This implies that the confessional is equal to the Holy of Holies! The priest is just a man sitting in a box – he is not God and does not replace Christ with himself! Yet, the priest cannot tell the police if he KNOWS someone else is in danger of murder, or that some other serious crime is about to take place. To be precise, he can tell them of a coming crime but will not say who told him about it. Thus, the serious criminal, even a murderer or abuser, will get away with his crime (sin) and so others can be hurt or killed.
This situation is so evil that even when a prison governor taped a confession to murder, they could not take it to court so the prisoner could be charged! (New York Times, August 1966). This was because it violated Catholic law, not because it violated criminal law! Yet, the criminal admitted to three murders. Can you see why the confessional can be a farce, and a very serious one at that?
If someone comes to me and confesses to this or that sin, I have a very clear path to take. If the sin is not public and has harmed no-one else, then the confession will be kept secret. However, I would need the person to seek forgiveness from God, and to amend his thoughts and actions. If the sin is a public one, I would expect a similar activity from the sinner, and a change of life that is obvious to all. If I was told of a crime, I would have no problem advising the police; I would advise the person I would do it, if he did not go to the police himself. If the confession was very serious (e.g. abuse or murder) I would contact the police immediately anyway.
If the person was a Christian and had committed a serious crime, then I would advise him in the same way – God will forgive, but he must put things right if possible and must also seek forgiveness from those he has wronged. However, the latter cannot take place if someone has been murdered. If a Christian did not go to the police himself over a serious crime I would not hesitate to tell them everything said to me.
The reader must remember that Rome is a clever liar; Romanism is a fake church, not Christian. Therefore, whatever it says is its ‘law’ is nothing of the kind and deserves no recognition or respect. The confessional, then, is a fake rite, and rules pertaining to it are unacceptable. Its priests, too, are blasphemous and unrecognised by God as His agents.
Additional Note: In California, one can be charged with aiding and abetting for three main reasons. One of those reasons is that you know the perpetrator’s illegal plan, and so are guilty of taking part in the crime even if you did nothing to execute it (accomplice liability’). Similar laws exist in many other countries.
In the same state, there are mandatory reporting laws (California Penal Code, sections 11164-11173.4) for crimes such as child abuse or neglect, even if all you have is a suspicion. Over forty professions are liable under this law... but it does not apply to the confessional. Why not? Everyone else MUST reply honestly to police when asked questions about a crime – but not priests who heard about crime in the confessional! Those who do not help police in this way can be charged with ‘misprision of a felony’... but not priests who withhold information gained in a confession box! (Source: Wallin and Klarich Law Corporation).
When does a silent priest become an accomplice, guilty of aiding and abetting? This question caused forceful anger against Rome when child abuse scandals came to light. WHY is Rome given freedom to stay silent? British law looks upon failure to prevent a serious crime as the act of an accomplice, and expects one to be punished equally with the perpetrator.
Why, then, is the Romish twisting of scripture leading to priestly silence allowed by law? Surely, a priest who knows of a murder, or child abuse, and who does not inform police, is complicit in that same crime? Especially if the perpetrator says he or she will commit the same crimes in the future. To me, complicity (by not reporting a serious crime and protecting the perpetrator’s identity) for ANY reason, is an ethical and moral sin.
“Every person who, after a felony has been committed, harbors, conceals or aids a principal in such felony, with the intent that said principal may avoid or escape from arrest, trial, conviction or punishment, having knowledge that said principal has committed such felony or has been charged with such felony or convicted thereof, is an accessory after the fact to such felony.”
(Aizman Law Firm, California)
Surely a priest who conceals the identity of a serious felon, knowing that the felon will not thereby be identified and arrested, is an actual accessory after the fact? If not, WHY not? Why should a priest in a non-Christian ‘church’ have the legal right to remain silent, when no-one else does? Why is the priest not subject to the penal code, section 32 (in this case, California)? If a felon says in a confessional box that he is going to commit further serious crimes, a priest who remains silent is guilty of concealing the felon and allowing him to escape arrest and justice. This is assisting the felon to escape the law.
A new law in Ireland requires priests to tell the authorities of serious crimes (the journal.ie). But, many priests say they will defy the law. Does this make them martyrs, or defiant accessories to crime? Why can they get away with their silence if the information was given inside the confession box... but, they can report what was said OUTSIDE the box... the difference being, in most cases, the thickness of a plank of wood? INSIDE the box, the priest and the criminal get away with it; OUTSIDE the box, and the priest can go to prison for at least five years if he remains silent! In mainly Catholic Ireland, a poll showed that 65% of people want priests to give information gained in the confessional if it involves crime.
Some say that priests do NOT have the legal right to withhold information given to them about serious crimes, but that they still get away with it (http://www.badnewsaboutchristianity.com/gdc_exemptions.htm ). Thus, police are also complicit when they allow priests to themselves be complicit! And, in Northern Ireland, priests who committed acts of IRA terrorism during ‘the troubles’ were hidden from prosecution by the authorities. In other cases, Rome simply moved priests from one country to another, to avoid the scandal breaking into the media.
Many ‘Christian groups accept priestly silence, but at least one anti-Roman Catholic group says the rules of confession are unbiblical and have no force. Romancatholicism.co.uk says that Rome knew confession was not in the early church, but lied about it. Rome also lied about people needing to confess to priests, and that confession of sins to a priest was necessary to be saved – the priest having power to absolve sins, though this power is only held by God.
“The value in such a terrible doctrine as the seal for the Catholic hierarchy is that it imbues in Catholics a sense that morality is obeying the Church not a choice between best and worst for the rule still stands no matter what happens as a result of it. The seal doctrine is evil for it denies that the worst damage should be avoided.”
“They claim that the fear of being told on would stop people from going to confession. But breaking the seal would only be commendable and lawful in extreme cases. The Church says that if the paedophile is afraid to go to confession in case the priest goes to the police with his revelations, then there is no chance that the paedophile might be told to turn himself in. In fact, the Church teaches that nobody is obligated to turn himself in for any crime. Also, the paedophile can still confess in an area where the priest does not know him. The Church teaches that the priest is not obligated to tell anybody to turn themselves in. This teaching is proof that the doctrine of the seal of confession is a terrible and twisted one.”
“The Church pretends that the priest cannot reveal what is told to him in confession because the confession is really just made to God and not the priest. The priest can make it his place to tell what he heard by accepting confession as being to him as well as to God. But confession before the priest is a repeat of what has been admitted to God prior to confession. The penitent has to undertake an examination of conscience in preparation for confession and tell God his sins and ask for mercy. When that is done he goes to the priest. The confession before the priest isn’t for God at all. The bad people have a right to be stopped by being informed to the police by the confessors and their victims have a right to be protected. The Church of Rome is saying that this is all wrong. The monster’s right to have their secrets kept is greater. They matter the most. Anyway, anybody that wants to confess a terrible crime can do so to a priest who does not know him.”
“God did not make the rule of the seal for he did not need to and it is inhuman. It is degrading to take part in confession and it is child-abuse to make your children do so for it blesses evil and blackmails people to tell their serious sins or else rot in Hell.”
The confessional has been invented by Rome, and Roman Catholicism has been invented by wicked men, under Satan’s rule, to oppose God. It is not a Christian church but a fake. So, why is a priest allowed to stay silent in the case of serious crimes, when everyone else MUST report information about them to police, or be prosecuted? Traditional obedience to the wickedness of the confessional must be overturned, for the sake of all society.
© August 2016
Published on www.christiandoctrine.com
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