Atheist Defends the Inviolable Seal of Confession
|Editor of spiked: Brendan O' Neill|
'News of the World journalists who invaded celebrities’ privacy by hacking into their idle phone chatter have got nothing on Irish politicians. The Irish state is hell bent on hacking into the most intimate conversation of all: that between a man and his God. A new law could force priests in Ireland to break the confessional seal if their penitent mentions anything to do with child sex abuse. In such circumstances, if Irish prime minister Enda Kenny gets his way, it will be a criminal offence for the priest to keep schtum about what he has heard. This would rip apart the Vatican’s Canon Law, which stipulates: “The sacramental seal is inviolable; thus it is absolutely illegitimate for the confessor to the make the penitent known, even only in part, using words or any other means, and for any reason.”
Now, as it happens, I am not the confessing type. As a severely lapsed Catholic and now immoveable atheist, I haven’t been inside a confessional since I was 17 years old. And I don’t miss telling some bloke behind a grille about the time I nicked a Kit-Kat or got matey with Onan. But there are millions upon millions of people for whom confession is a central part of their faith, and for whom absolute privacy is a central part of confession. They believe, and should have every right to believe, that the confessional facilitates communication with God, providing a tiny, darkened space, utterly cut off from the world, where they can offload their various horrors and heartbreaks in private. For the state to invade this space, to colonise it on the basis that it is a sinister place where lurid stories about paedophilia might be swapped between a pervert and his priest, is an attack on freedom of religion....'
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