Last month, the Catholic Church received a scare in the form of SB 360, the “Seal of Confession” bill.
As many know, the practice of confession is a deeply personal and deeply spiritual sacrament in the Catholic Church.
A conversation that happens in confession is protected from the government in the same way as a conversation between husband and wife.
But according to some California legislators, that protection represents a threat to the power of the state and therefore must be abolished.
An Attack on Catholic Sacraments
Catholics believe in seven sacraments, or holy things that were gifted to them from God as a means of growing in faith and grace.
Those seven sacraments include: baptism, confirmation, the Holy Eucharist, marriage, holy orders (priesthood), anointing of the sick, and confession. Each of these sacraments are holy and play an important part in the growth of any Catholic in the faith.
Confession, in particular, is a very important part of a Catholic’s path to spiritual excellence because it provides a place for them to confess their sins to God, with the priest acting as a mediator between them and the Lord.
Regardless of one’s own convictions on these sacraments, the belief in religious liberty demands that we stand up for the rights of our Catholic brothers and sisters to practice them.
According to Catholic theology, the priest is under strict command by the Church to maintain the privacy and confidence of the confession no matter what.
If a priest were to talk to anyone about what was said in the confession booth, it would mean their job. Even a person who overhears a confession, whether layman or church official, is under obligation to maintain silence about what was heard. The message that the person confesses is confessed as if to God directly.
Any breach of that circle of trust would mean the unraveling of the very foundation of the practice.
The Problem with SB 360
On the surface, it appears SB 360 is about doing what is best for children.
The bill is centered on preventing child abuse by expanding what it means to be a “mandated reporter.” Under this bill, any priest that took or overheard a confession that included an admittance of child abuse would be mandated to report it.
At an informational session held by the Legion of Mary at St. Clare of Assisi Parish in California, Father Malcolm Ambrose answered a question about this concern during the Q & A session.
The questioner said that children should be protected no matter what the cost and asked him what the church would do to protect children if a person actually confessed to abusing a child.
Father Ambrose agreed but emphasized that he had never heard a confession in his entire career (spanning several decades) that included a confession of child abuse. In addition, he noted that there was no way he would know who was confessing such a crime because of the boundary between him and the confessor. Many times, he did not see the confessor face-to-face and it would require monitoring equipment (Big Brother, anyone?) to know who was confessing what.
Realizing this, it is apparent that SB 360 is a fruitless bill that would only further expand government influence into a faith-based institution under the guise of the betterment of mankind.
The Future of the Church Under SB 360
In order to understand the seriousness of this bill in effect to the unified Church, it is important to understand history.
In World War 2, the Nazi regime exercised total control over churches that operated within its influence. Churches simply became extensions of the regime — providing a means for monitoring people at their most vulnerable and to brainwash all citizens into the Nazi ideology.
Church officials could not be trusted as many of the truly faithful were among the persecuted — imprisoned and murdered among the other “undesirables” of the time. The ones left behind were basically government officials — reporting all “suspicious” activities to their superiors.
When the church is run by the state, then there is no place to run to when the state becomes evil.
The church has always been a great defense against the corruption and evil that sometimes swells within the ranks of the elite, and without it there was and there will be great suffering to the most vulnerable among us.
Victory over SB360
The church’s cry for help was heard throughout the county and hundreds of thousands of letters were written to California legislators denouncing SB 360 for its shortsightedness, fruitlessness and violation of basic American rights.
The legislators quickly removed the bill to the delight and relief of all.
However, this was not the first time the church has been attacked over the seal of confession and it surely won’t be the last.
As Christians, we must remain vigilant against all violations of religious liberty, and be prepared for the attacks that will come under the guise of good intention, but would ultimately result in more state control over the church.
But for now, we rejoice.