Catholic bishop says protecting children overrules confessional secrecy

New Ways Ministry

In an abrupt volte-face, France’s top Catholic bishop says protecting children from sexual abuse overrules confessional secrecy, the RFIa French news and current affairs public radio station has reported.

This remark made by Bishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort (pictured) completely contradicts the comments he made last week when he suggested priests should not violate the confessional seal.

He sparked outrage last week among victims’ groups when he said the secrecy of confession was “above the laws of the Republic”.

His comments followed the publication of a report saying during the past 70 years Catholic clergy and lay members of the church had sexually abused 330,000 children.

De Moulins-Beaufort, who is the president of the French bishops’ conference, now says protecting children is an “absolute priority” for the Catholic Church.

On Tuesday he was summoned to a meeting with Gerald Darmanin, who is France’s Minister of Religious Affairs and the Interior Minister – at the request of President Emmanuel Macron.

At the reportedly lengthy meeting, Darmanin says he made it clear that while French law recognises the professional secrecy of the sacrament of confession, this does not apply to disclosures that could lead to criminal cases of child sexual abuse.

“I told him … no law is superior to the laws of the National Assembly and the Senate … France respects all religions providing they respect the Republic and the laws of the Republic.”

After the meting De Moulins-Beaufort issued a statement highlighting the “determination of all bishops, and all Catholics, to make the protection of children an absolute priority, in close cooperation with the French authorities”.

He apologised and asked for forgiveness for the “clumsy” wording of his answer during last week’s interview and said:

“The scope of the violence and sexual assaults against minors revealed by the report demands that the Church revise its practices in light of this reality,” he said.

“It is, therefore, necessary to reconcile the nature of confession with the need to protect children”.

He also reiterated his “shame and consternation” over the report’s findings and promised to “carry out the reforms necessary for the French Church to gain everyone’s trust”.

He said he had asked the pope to meet with the report’s authors in the Vatican.

One of the report’s recommendations included a request for the Church to reconsider the seal of confession in cases of abuse.

While Francis has expressed his “shame and horror” over the report, to date the Vatican has strongly defended the secrecy of confession.


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