Dilemma of the Confessional
SUPPOSE you had a dear friend who was soon to be hanged for a murder he was innocent of, convicted upon perjured and circumstantial evidence. Then suppose the murderer came to you and confessed his guilt. Would you not immediately notify the police so that your innocent friend would not need to die? Of course you would! But if you were a Roman Catholic priest, and this man had confessed to you, you would have to stand helplessly by as your dear friend died for a murder he did not commit. Fantastic? Not according to Catholic theologians.
Thus the Catholic Herald, London, England, May 9, 1952, in its question column published the following: “Can the seal of confession be broken by a priest in the interests of justice, e.g., in such a grave matter as murder? No. Nothing whatever, except the consent of the penitent (which he can never be obliged to give), can release a priest from the seal. . . . even if the circumstances were such that the priest thought it the criminal’s duty to give himself up—even to save an innocent life—the priest himself could never make use of knowledge which does not belong to him at all, but only to God.”
Two actual incidents illustrate the foregoing: “Returns Bank Loot, Won’t Bare Thief. Priest’s Lips Sealed. . . . part of the money taken by a repentant bank robber has been returned by a Denver priest to whom he confessed, but authorities still don’t know his identity. The Roman Catholic priest, with a ‘sacred obligation’ to reveal nothing heard in the confessional, yesterday returned to authorities $6,850 in bills he said was part of $7,780 taken in a daylight robbery here Feb. 17. . . . The United States attorney said the priest promised to relay a message that partial return of the money would not absolve the robber of ‘criminal responsibility.’ ‘I hope now that he will decide to clear his conscience entirely by coming to the proper authorities,’ said [attorney] Kelley.”—Los Angeles Herald & Express, April 13, 1955.
The second incident was reported by The Inland Register, a Spokane, Washington, Roman Catholic weekly, August 14, 1953. It told of an item that appeared in the London Times regarding a priest to whom a certain convict, thinking he was dying, confessed as having committed the crime for which another man was serving a sentence. The convict recovered, but upon his death, a year later, the priest revealed his confession, causing the innocent man to be set free. It was pointed out that even death does not free a priest from his seal, and that if true, this was perhaps the first time in history in which a priest broke his seal and revealed what had been told him in a confession.
Look out: perhaps there may be some man that will carry you off as his prey through the philosophy and empty deception according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary things of the world and not according to Christ.—Col. 2:8.