The Minister of the Interior reminds the Episcopal Conference that justice must prevail over the secrecy of confession
Gérald Gérald Darmanin yesterday asked Catholic priests not to hide behind the secrecy of confession to avoid reporting sexual abuse committed against minors to Justice. The French Minister of the Interior met with the president of the Episcopal Conference, Eric de Moulins-Beaufort, after the controversy that he provoked a few dates ago by arguing that the sacramental secrecy is “stronger than the laws of the Republic.”
Confessional secrecy, imposed on priests by canon law, is “after almost 200 years recognized in our law as a professional secret, like that of doctors and lawyers,” explained Darmanin. However, the minister also wanted to recall that there are “exceptions”, such as crimes committed against children under 15 years of age. For this reason, he assured that the Church cannot sanction priests for violating the secret of confession when they have knowledge of sexual abuse against children. In fact, he insisted, those religious are obliged to report them to protect the minors themselves.
Darmanin also reminded Moulins-Beaufort during their meeting that “there is no law superior to the laws of the Republic.” “Respect all cults and all confessions from the moment they respect the Republic and the laws of the Republic,” he had previously insisted in the National Assembly.
After the meeting with the minister and to settle this controversy, the president of the French Episcopal Conference asked “forgiveness” from the victims and all those who bothered with his “clumsy” statements.
France is debating these days about the secrecy of confession after the publication last week of a report by the Independent Commission on Sexual Abuse in the Church (Ciase) that revealed that some 330,000 minors were victims of priests or lay pedophiles linked to the Church or other Catholic institutions between 1950 and 2020. The study also calculated that there were between 2,900 and 3,200 religious pedophiles in that period.
The Ciase recommended undertaking a reform of the confidentiality of confession and considered that “it cannot abrogate the obligation to report to the judicial and administrative authorities cases of sexual violence inflicted on a minor or a vulnerable person.”
After “the extent of sexual violence and assault” revealed, Moulins-Beaufort recognized the need for reforms to the secrecy of confession in order to “reconcile the nature of confession and the need to protect children.” In this sense, he reiterated “the determination of all bishops and, with them, all Catholics, to make the protection of children an absolute priority in close collaboration with the authorities.”
The Gallic prelates will meet from November 3 to 8 to analyze the Ciase report and its recommendations. Moulins-Beaufort reiterated his “shame and dismay” at the abuses committed by religious and also his determination to carry out the necessary reforms so that the Catholic Church is “worthy of the trust of all.”