Turn Pedophile Penitent to Police?

Dearest Fr.

I located your e-sight a few weeks ago and love it. My question is about pedophiles. During this time of complete upset in our Catholic church will people who feel that they are pedophiles allowed to go to confession without being scared of being turned into the police by a the Priest? I am just a concerned mother of three adult children who have given me 5 beautiful grandchildren, but am concerned that with the new regulations, pedophiles may feel quite cautioned about confessing their sins to a priest. Please respond.

Thank you and God Bless.



Dear Cecilia,

That is a very good - and difficult - question. My experience is that the person who comes to confession with that sin is in a state of extreme anguish - guilt for what they have done and the awareness that, if it became known, would result in universal condemnation and imprisonment. I try to steer the person where they can get help, but that part is complicated because, as I understand it, a counselor is legally obliged to contact the police.

I have nephews and nieces - and now grand-nieces and nephew. I would be enraged if anyone molested them - or any child in my parish. So if someone confesses child abuse, I am most concerned to protect children. At the same time, the priest can never, under any circumstances, violate the seal of confession. I understand that some priests withhold absolution until they are certain of the person's repentance and assurance of avoiding the "occasion of sin," which in this case might mean turning oneself in to civil authorities.

Personally, if someone gets up the courage to come to confession, I presume their sincerity. I am very reluctant to refuse absolution - more so in the rare case when I react negatively to a penitent. To respond on the basis of my own emotions would hardly be Christlike.

As you can see, Cecilia, I do not have an easy answer - except to say, yes, the priest always must guard the seal of confession. To violate the seal carries the penalty of excommunication. If any government passed a law requiring us to violate that seal, we would of course be obliged in conscience to disobey such a law. (Acts 4:19)

God bless,

Fr. Bloom

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