ANY PROPOSAL that undermines the inviolability of the seal of confession is a challenge to the right of every Catholic to freedom of religion and conscience, Cardinal Seán Brady said yesterday.
The Archbishop of Armagh and Primate of All Ireland was commenting following Government plans to put child protection measures, including mandatory reporting, on a statutory footing in the wake of the Cloyne report.
The report examined child sexual abuse perpetrated by Catholic priests in the diocese and highlighted reporting failures.
Minister for Children Frances Fitzgerald said last month failure to abide by the proposed mandatory reporting laws, which would force the disclosure of information on child neglect or abuse, would result in tough sanctions such as fines or jail terms.
On the issue of whether the privacy of the confession box could be used as an excuse not to report abuse concerns, Ms Fitzgerald said this would not be the case.
“If there is a law in the land it has to be followed by everybody. There are no exceptions, there are no exemptions,” Ms Fitzgerald said. “I’m not concerned, and neither is the Government, about the internal laws or rules governing anybody.”
Speaking yesterday at the Marian Shrine, Knock, Co Mayo, during Mass to conclude the centenary year of the birth of Blessed Teresa of Calcutta, Cardinal Brady said confession was a sacred and treasured rite.
“Freedom to participate in worship and to enjoy the long-established rites of the church is so fundamental that any intrusion upon it is a challenge to the very basis of a free society.”
“For example, the inviolability of the seal of confession is so fundamental to the very nature of the sacrament that any proposal that undermines that inviolability is a challenge to the right of every Catholic to freedom of religion and conscience.”
Also yesterday, St Patrick’s College Maynooth announced that 22 new seminarians are to begin studying for the priesthood this autumn. The 22 men will bring the number of seminarians for Irish dioceses to over 90.
Some 72 will be studying in Maynooth with the remainder in St Malachy’s Belfast, the Irish College, Rome, and in the Beda College, also in Rome.
The new group includes a chartered surveyor, a pub manager, several mature students and at least one school-leaver. The average age of the new entrants is 25. The intake of 22 seminarians will not necessarily translate into 22 new priests; on average, for every 10 men who begin training, five or six are ordained.
Speaking yesterday, Bishop Donal McKeown, chairman of the Council for Vocations of the Irish Episcopal Conference, said the new seminarians had a long period of formation ahead.
“The Catholic Church in which you will serve will be a much changed institution. Yet, despite the uncertainties of the future, all new seminarians are responding with hope to God’s never ceasing call to proclaim his kingdom,” he said. “With grace and the vision of the Gospel, it is possible to build community, to promote healing and to build supportive relationships.”