Is it okay for pastor to go to police after hearing a confession?

Lämmchen

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What do you think about a pastor or priest who hears a confession and then goes to the police to report a crime? Has he crossed the line or done a duty?
 

Krissy Cakes

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I guess it would depend on the crime. Like I would report child/elder abuse. But I won't report shoplifters.
 

tango

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I imagine a lot would depend on circumstances.

If the discussion between a confessor and a priest is legally privileged and can legally be withheld in court it could create a moral dilemma for the priest. If someone confessed to a serious crime I'd hope the priest would advise them that they would report it to the police rather than letting them think it's confidential and then get the unexpected knock at the door.

Of course circumstance changes a lot - someone who confesses working for a few hundred in cash under the table is a very different situation to someone who confesses to abducting and torturing people.
 

ValleyGal

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I think pastors and priests should be held to an ethical standard similar to other professionals... if it's child protection, or there is harm or has the potential of harm to self or others, reporting should be mandatory.
 

tango

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I think pastors and priests should be held to an ethical standard similar to other professionals... if it's child protection, or there is harm or has the potential of harm to self or others, reporting should be mandatory.
That's an interesting question - what happens if a priest is required to maintain confidence while also being a mandated reporter for child abuse issues? Even if there isn't hard evidence that abuse has occurred my understanding is that a report must be made if there is a credible suspicion of abuse occurring.
 

Josiah

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What do you think about a pastor or priest who hears a confession and then goes to the police to report a crime? Has he crossed the line or done a duty?


As I understand it, there are a lot of LEGALITIES involved - and they vary a LOT from country to country, and in the USA from state to state. Typically, a pastor should abide by the Law of the Land UNLESS it clearly, CLEARLY, contradicts a written Law of God. So what the civil law DOES come into play.


Here is how I've always regarded the Confessional (whether in my Catholic or Lutheran days).... The priest/pastor is there in the capacity of the CHURCH, the Kingdom of God's Right Hand. But several things to keep in mind:

1. Where there is confession and faith, as a representative of Christ (and just as a Christian!) he is to proclaim and apply GOSPEL - and that means forgiveness.


2. Someone once defined "repentance" as being sorry enough to quit. That's the thing.... confession/repentance is NOT remorse (even your pagan dog feels that), it includes a sincere dedication to STOP, it includes a resolve to do DIFFERENTLY in the future, to live differently, to not repeat this. Otherwise, this isn't repentance (it's just remorse - perhaps only for getting caught). There needs to be repentance and faith - or this is not a confessional and any concept of "keeping this secret" doesn't apply.


3. THAT, however, does not preclude RESTITUTION (the part of private confession no one likes! He forgives you and then tells you you need to DO something to restore). And that may well mean TELLING and TAKING RESPONSIBILITY.


4. Here's what I was told in my Catholic days.... The priest will keep TRUE confession confidential unless he believes this will continue and cause harm to others... he must abide the 10 Commandments and the Law of Love; he cannot knowingly stand by and do nothing if great harm will result. The example I recall, Bob tells his priest he's going to kill his sister.... Now, I'd raise the whole issue of whether there's any repentance there (!) but IF the priest thinks he is truly sorry for this desire (and thus can forgive him for the desire) he must protect the sister! This may mean getting Bob to call the cops (or whatever), it may mean the priests calling the cops. Yeah, in a way, this violates the confessional BUT violating the Law of Love and the Fifth Commandment and enabling a murder is a much greater sin. We were told this SPECIFICALLY so that we did not misunderstand the confidentiality aspect - it's not absolute.



- Josiah
 

tango

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As I understand it, there are a lot of LEGALITIES involved - and they vary a LOT from country to country, and in the USA from state to state. Typically, a pastor should abide by the Law of the Land UNLESS it clearly, CLEARLY, contradicts a written Law of God. So what the civil law DOES come into play.
Of course if the priest chooses to put the law of God above the law of the land he should be willing (as indeed any of us should) to face the secular consequences of breaking a secular law.

1. Where there is confession and faith, as a representative of Christ (and just as a Christian!) he is to proclaim and apply GOSPEL - and that means forgiveness.
3. THAT, however, does not preclude RESTITUTION (the part of private confession no one likes! He forgives you and then tells you you need to DO something to restore). And that may well mean TELLING and TAKING RESPONSIBILITY.
Forgiveness is a multifaceted concept in some situations. The priest may proclaim God's forgiveness, although we don't need a priest to do that. God's forgiveness frees us from spiritual consequences but does not free us from secular consequences. If the confessor has committed a secular crime with secular consequences there is nothing the priest can do that will make those secular consequences go away. It's a reasonable argument that if someone is truly sorry for what they did they will face the secular consequences, even if only to make things right with whoever they have wronged.

I'm going out on a limb and linking this thread to a news article about a priest who informed the police about a man who confessed to abusing a child. In a situation like this there is probably nothing he can do to make things right with the child but simply figuring God has forgiven him so it never happened and the child can just deal with it helps nobody, least of all the actual victim.

4. Here's what I was told in my Catholic days.... The priest will keep TRUE confession confidential unless he believes this will continue and cause harm to others... he must abide the 10 Commandments and the Law of Love; he cannot knowingly stand by and do nothing if great harm will result. The example I recall, Bob tells his priest he's going to kill his sister.... Now, I'd raise the whole issue of whether there's any repentance there (!) but IF the priest thinks he is truly sorry for this desire (and thus can forgive him for the desire) he must protect the sister! This may mean getting Bob to call the cops (or whatever), it may mean the priests calling the cops. Yeah, in a way, this violates the confessional BUT violating the Law of Love and the Fifth Commandment and enabling a murder is a much greater sin. We were told this SPECIFICALLY so that we did not misunderstand the confidentiality aspect - it's not absolute
True - it puts priests in an impossible position if they are expected to protect others from clearly identifiable harm but also expected to maintain confidence even when someone says they plan to commit (or actually committed) a serious crime. Throw in mandated reporting of reasonable suspicion of child abuse and the priest has little option but to turn in the confessor.
 
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TopSilver

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No it depends what it was. For example if someone said they drink beer when they were 19 years old, that would be quite a shame for one to go to the police (just a funny example of how some people can go so far to get someone in trouble). But if the person actually did something really bad the pastor should definitely go to the police. Only because that person might act againt and he could be saving other people. Just my thoughts.
 

jsimms435

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What do you think about a pastor or priest who hears a confession and then goes to the police to report a crime? Has he crossed the line or done a duty?
I would guess it would be similar to that of a therapist. Our motto is "Do no harm." So, if I knew of an incident where a person was either going to hurt himself or someone else I would be responsible to try and stop it even if I learned about it during a session. Which is something that is usually explained to a client in the first session. Of if a person admitted to abuse such as child abuse or elderly abuse then I would be forced to report it. I usually have given the parent or person an opportunity to be on the call with me if they want to report themselves.
 
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Bluezone777

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If you made a promise not to do something then immediately go and do what you said you wouldn't do then you are a liar and committing sin. You are also violating someone's trust and someone who violates the trust of others will quickly be pointed out and you will find no one coming to you for any confessions of any kind because they would have no reason to trust you with anything as you shown yourself to be not trustworthy.

If you can't keep a promise then you shouldn't be making it in the first place. There is no such thing as sinning for a good reason/cause. Speaking of which, aren't these confessions done in such a way that the person hearing the confession can't see the person doing the confession?
 

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Bottom line, no! Perhaps the fact people cant keep their mouth shut is why people in church do not confess to each other like the bible says. A shame when christians cant even do that
 

JRT

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Speaking of which, aren't these confessions done in such a way that the person hearing the confession can't see the person doing the confession?
The confession can be anonymous if the penitent is a complete strangers but the reality is that the confessor frequently know the penitent. I have heard that confessors have sometimes made absolution conditional on the penitent turning themselves in and threatening exposure.
 
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