Fr John Hunwicke blogs : It is reported that the Queensland parliament has joined other Australian legislatures in providing for the imprisonment of Catholic Priests for performing priestly functions.
I do not want to get into the question of whether or not it would in fact help to stamp out the sexual abuse of children for priests to break the seal of the confessional. That is a prudential matter; and, in purely prudential matters, what Oz does in none of my business. I simply wish to point out, as the Holy See has done, that this touches on Divine Law … which, for Catholics everywhere, is not negotiable. When the Law of God and the Catholic Faith are attacked in any place on this planet, all Catholics are attacked.
The idea of a priest being imprisoned for three years for doing what God commissioned him to do is chilling. Not since the Catholic Relief Act of 1791, I think, have priests in my country been at risk of imprisonment for performing their sacramental duties. One hears of harsh forms of religious oppression in countries such as China; I wonder if some members of these Australian parliaments might even have hypocritically joined in protests. But the full extent of the current world-wide campaigns against Christianity is to me so much more vividly real when the persecution happens, not in Peking, but in English-speaking countries with a rule of law based on the Common Law and derived ultimately from our own legal system. It could even happen here! To me!
One can understand violent reactions occurring among angry people; after all, abused children can be, sometimes are, damaged, harmed, for life. Indeed, during the Irish troubles, when bombs were being exploded in Ulster and London and Birmingham, people were left dead … and, indeed, living survivors were left harmed and damaged, in both mind and body. But I don’t remember serious legislative proposals being taken forward in our legislatures based on the supposition that the answer to the problem lay in locking up Catholic Priests. I concede that we may be daft; but we are not quite as daft as the legislators of Queensland.
Mind you, the Queensland legislation could have hilarious results if the clergy were foolish enough to take it seriously, especially in a large cathedral before one of the major festivals. Imagine the scene … raised voices in the confessional … man (or woman) comes out and swiftly merges into the people kneeling in prayer, followed a moment later by the priest with his surplice fluttering and his stole awry, shouting “Where are you? Come back! The last person in my confessional! Come back! I need your name, address, email, twitter, and facebook details to give to the police!” Uncertain which of the kneeling people is the culprit, Father goes up to them one by one … ” Speak to me! If I hear your voice, I may be able to recognise it! Is it you? Or is it you? Or you? Do you want to make me spend Christmas in a police cell eating curried Kangaroo?”.
The jolly swagmen, and the often even jollier swagwomen, in those potty little parliaments should be dragged away to the nearest billabong and humanely drowned.
No; I didn’t mean that … just jest … no harm in the world …