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Monday, January 21, 2008

Seal of the confessional in danger

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Cathcon translation of Beichtgeheimnis in Gefahr?

In Germany, there is controversy over the so-called “tapping exemption”. The Federal Interior Ministry under Wolfgang Schäuble is proposing a reform of the BKA- law to combat terrorism not only to remove the strict “tapping exemption” from parliamentarians and lawyers, but also from the clergy. This has met with sharp protest from the Catholic Church as the confessional secret in danger. Even if it concerns the secrecy of discussions with the priest outside the confessional, the plan was unacceptable, says the Cologne Cathedral Vicar and confessor, Oliver Dregger.

"I can utterly not understand why politicians want to sweep away the seal of the confessional, as this is protected in our country by the Concordat. And when it comes to the secrecy of the discussions with a priest, people would no longer have the feeling that the priest can be really trusted, and then the people would no longer go to him. "

In practical pastoral care, there is a smooth transition to confession, according to Dregger.

"Experience shows that pastoral discussions, that initially are not confession oriented, often develop into a confession so that this distinction between the normal official secrecy of the priest and the seal of the confessional is often theoretical."

The pastor believes a possible change in legislation is dangerous.

"People who confess, entrusts to the priest in the confessional some very intimate secrets, are themselves able to say that they would think twice if there was the risk that the clergy in any way had told another person. Then this would no longer be protected place, where people do not only say this or that about themeselves, but where they can really be quite open and know: Here I can say everything, even the things that I would not confide to my closest friend. "

The seal of the confessional obliges the confessor to absolute silence about what he learned through confession. The violation of seal of the confessional attracts the heaviest ecclesiastical penalties. The seal of the confessional has applied since the 13th Century to the whole Catholic Church.

The most famous example of the preservation of the sacred seal of the confessional was St John Nepomuc. He was drowned in 1393 by the Bohemian king in Moldova because he refused to disclose the confession of the Queen.

Legally, the seal of the confessional is guaranteed in the Concordat, implemented in German civil law, between the Vatican and Germany as well as in state laws. One example is the law which permits priests and others who have to guard professional secrecy, such as deputies and lawyers, to refuse to testify. Clause 53 of the Criminal Procedure Code gives them the right to refuse to give a statement to investigators. This paragraph also protects discussions with the Faithful, clients or patients from interception.

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