Seal of Confession
I recently read an article in the Herald Sun that discusses a priest who confessed to the sexual abuse of a child during the Sacrament of Reconciliation. Evidently the offending priest did not go to the police. The Bishop states that this is a misuse of the sacrament and that he’d have to consider going to the authorities. Another priest in his diocese insisted he would, indeed, go to the police if ever someone confessed a crime of that sort to him. The Bishop further stated that he’d withhold absolution if the penitent didn’t go to the police.
I’m curious as to what circumstances exist to allow priests to break the seal of confession? I was under the impression that doing so, for any reason, would result in excommunication. Ron, could you clarify?
The Seal of the Confessional is absolute. It may never be broken, regardless of the sin or crime. If the confessor goes to the police, or even informs the Bishop, he is automatically excommunicated and it is an intrinsically evil grave sin.
The confessor cannot withhold absolution, if the penitent expresses contrition. An openly unrepentant "penitent" should not be given absolution, as the Sacrament requires at least imperfect contrition for validity. Otherwise, withholding absolution on any condition is a grave sin.
Fr. Z. has written on this topic repeatedly here:
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