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St. Hilary, pray for the Church in the US

Canisius | 23 January, 2006 20:46

As I noted on the feast of St. Hilary, the Church's freedom from government interferance was a real issue in Gueranger's day.

Strangely, though, a number of headlines have popped up just recently having to do with Church/state problems right here in the United States. Their significance is not so much the imminent threat of any one of them, but the way they have clustered together to indicate a general trend toward a conflict in the near future. Here they are:

The US Supreme Court allowed a lawsuit against the Vatican Bank to go forward, despite arguments that the suit involved foreign-policy issues that are not within the jurisdiction of the US court system.

Another US judge has ruled that a priest cannot use the seal of the confessional as an excuse for refusing to say whether he heard someone's confession. In other words, the judge is not trying to make the priest directly say what the penitent confessed, but he is trying to make the priest introduce testimony that will make a jury think the man is guilty: "He is accused of murder; AND, your honor, it is known that he went to confession the day after the crime!"

Most significantly, a judge has ruled that a diocese must sell more than $300,000 worth in assets to cover costs of abuse suits. Problem is, canon law doesn't allow a diocese to sell that much without Vatican approval, so were the Vatican to say No (as they could reasonably), we would have a big-time church/state conflict.

None of this meant as chicken-littling, but still it's food for thought.


comments

Comment Icon Seal of confession

Louis | 26/01/2006, 03:22

Relating to the incident within the LA archdiocese:

This is actually rather striking, but if you read what Thomas Aquinas has to say about the Seal of Confession(Supplementum Tertia Pars, Question 11), Thomas addresses this very question, and he says that the priest can actually swear that he knows not without impinging his conscience. His reason for this is that a man is only called upon to witness as a man, and the knowledge of the sin that the priest has is something that belongs properly to God.

I'm not sure he's right about this issue, but it is rather interesting.

Comment Icon Hmmm, I wonder....

Peter_Canisius | 26/01/2006, 20:40

Kind of reminds me of the traditional explanations for how Jesus can say that "not even the son of man knows" the day of the end of the world.

You know, the stuff from the Supplement is culled from Thomas's commentary on the Sentences. This not only means that it is his early work and perhaps not his mature opinion, blah da blah, but also--and this struck me when I did some comparative work--that it is highly unoriginal. The labor of commenting on the entire Sentences was so vast that a lot of borrowing went on. It would be interesting to compare what Thomas says with some other Sentences commentaries (Bonaventure and Albert are both readily available) to see if this was a common opinion at the time.

Oh, just for clarification--I don't have time to track this down at the moment: does St. Thomas address the specific question of whether the priest can reveal THAT HE HAS HEARD THE MAN'S CONFESSION, or does he just address the question of whether the priest can reveal WHAT WAS SAID IN CONFESSION?

Comment Icon Seal of Confession...Cont.

Louis | 28/01/2006, 00:58

It's a little unclear, but the example is of him being called to give witness of a sin which he has knowledge of by confession, and Thomas says that he can say that he knows not, so He seems to be more talking about the sin itself, not the fact that he went to confession.

 
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