Confessional seal: what it means in Irish legislation and abroad

The Seal of the confessional is generally respected in most western jurisdictions, whether constitutionally or by custom and practice.

To date, in the Republic, Northern Ireland and Britain it is respected under custom and practice, while in the US it is protected under two constitutional amendments.

Legislation to breach the seal of the confessional would be “unenforceable”, “impractical”, and “a distraction from the main issue”, chief executive of the Catholic Church’s child protection watchdog, the National Board for Safeguarding Children, Ian Elliott said last night.

A Presbyterian, he was not so much defending the Catholic Church as pointing out that “such legislation is unenforceable unless you bug the confessional”, he said

Insistence on doing so would “only antagonise and distract from the main issue which is the protection of children. Why fight it, when we should concentrate on priorities?” he asked.

He recalled from his experience as lead child protection adviser in Northern Ireland that the advice of civil servants there was to respect the seal.

Dr Gerard Whyte, associate professor of law at Trinity College Dublin, said “the seal of the confessional enjoys some legal protection in civil law as well as under canon law and so it is more accurate to characterise the issue here as one of securing a balance between conflicting civil rights”.

Continue reading the Irish Times’ article: Confessional seal: what it means in irish legislation and abroad


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