Monday, June 4, 2018

Our confessional guidance is not uncanonical, Canterbury diocese says

From The Church Times-

CANTERBURY diocese has defended itself against the charge that guidance on its website advises priests to betray the seal of the confessional.
The Principal of St Stephen’s House, Oxford, Canon Robin Ward, this week called the advice “uncanonical”, and said that it placed the clergy in an “invidious and unsatisfactory position”.
The diocese’s child- and adult-protection guidelines, drafted and posted online in early 2015, state: “The Bishop emphasises that . . . any priest hearing a confession, regularly or otherwise, must say prior to hearing that confession the following statement of confidentiality and safeguarding: ‘If you touch on any matter in your confession that raises a concern about the well-being or safeguarding of another person or yourself, I am duty bound to pass that information on to the relevant agencies, which means that I am unable to keep such information confidential.’”
Prior to this, the guidelines cite the House of Bishops policy for safeguarding children (Protecting All God’s Children, 2010), which state: “Canon Law constrains a priest from disclosing details of any crime or offence which is revealed in the course of formal confession; however, there is some doubt as to whether this absolute privilege is consistent with the civil law. Where a penitent’s own behaviour is at issue, the priest should not only urge the person to report it to the police or the local authority children’s social care, if that is appropriate, but may judge it necessary to withhold absolution. In such a case the priest may consider it necessary to alert the bishop to his or her decision in order to safeguard himself or herself and seek advice on the issues, though the penitent’s details would not be shared without their permission. The priest might also judge it appropriate to encourage the penitent to speak personally to the bishop.”
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