Should the priest–penitent privilege be forsaken if it is revealed that the penitent has committed and/or will commit a serious crime?

Posted by: PetersSmith

"Serious crime" is a little finicky. I'm thinking of things like murder, rape, kidnapping, bank robberies, etc.

7 Total Votes

Yes, if if is revealed that the penitent has committed a serious crime and/or will commit a serious crime.

Known as the clergy–penitent privilege, clergy privilege, confessional privilege, priest–penitent privilege, clergyman-communicant privilege, and ecclesiastical privilege; it is an application of the principle of privileged communication that protec... ts the contents of communications between a member of the clergy of any religious faith (a “clergy” is a minister, priest, rabbi, or other similar functionary of a religious organization, or an individual reasonably believed to be so by the person consulting him) and a penitent, who shares information in confidence. It stems from the principle of confessional privilege. It is a distinct concept from that of confidentiality (see non-disclosure agreement). The protection of the clergy-penitent privilege relationships rests on one of the more basic privileges as strong or stronger than the similar clauses to confidentiality between lawyer and client   more
4 votes
1 comment

No, there should be absolute confidentiality.

According to former U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice, Warren Burger, “The clergy privilege is rooted in the imperative need for confidence and trust. The... Privilege recognizes the human need to disclose to a spiritual counselor, in total and absol... ute confidence, what are believed to be flawed acts or thoughts and to receive consolations and guidance in return.” A pastor has a duty to hold in confidence any information obtained during a counseling session. A pastor who violates this trust might be on the losing end of a suit for an invasion of privacy or defamation. The First Amendment is largely cited as the jurisprudential basis. The earliest and most influential case acknowledging the priest–penitent privilege was People v. Phillips (1813), where the Court of General Sessions of the City of New York refused to compel a priest to testify. The Court opined: It is essential to the free exercise of a religion, that its ordinances should be administered—that its ceremonies as well as its essentials should be protected. Secrecy is of the essence of penance. The sinner will not confess, nor will the priest receive his confession, if the veil of secrecy is removed: To decide that the minister shall promulgate what he receives in confession, is to declare that there shall be no penance..   more
2 votes

Yes, if it is revealed that a life is threatened and/or already has been claimed by the penitent.

According to New York law, confessions and confidences made to a clergyman or other minister are privileged and cannot be used as evidence. This privilege is not limited to communications with a particular kind of priest or congregant, and it is not...  confined to statements made ‘under the cloak of confession.’ What matters is that the conversations were of a spiritual nature, were confidential enough to indicate that the penitent intended that they be kept secret, and that the penitent did not waive the privilege subsequently. New York law (NY CPLR 4505) provides that: unless the person confessing or confiding waives the privilege, a clergyman, or other minister of any religion or duly accredited Christian Science practitioner, shall not be allowed to disclose a confession or confidence made to him in his professional character as a spiritual advisor. A 1999 Oregon bill (52-0) gives clergy members the same type of immunity long granted to spouses, whose conversations are privileged… Oregon Statute ORS 40.260 (Clergy-Penitent Privilege) states confidential communication made privately and not intended for further disclosure may not be examined unless consent to the disclosure of the confidential communication is given by the person who made the communication. Oregon’s reporting law 419B.010(1), explicitly exempts pastors from any duty to report such privileged communications   more
1 vote
1 comment

The priest–penitent privilege should not exist.

Among the cases in which the exclusion of evidence presents itself as expedient, the case of Catholic confession possesses a special claim to notice. In a political state, in which this most extensively adopted modification of the Christian religion...  is established upon a footing either of equality or preference, the necessity of the exclusion demanded will probably appear too imperious to admit of dispute. In taking a view of the reasons which plead in favour of it, let us therefore suppose the scene to lie in a country in which the Catholic religion is barely tolerated: in which the wish would be to see the number of its votaries decline, but without being accompanied with any intention to aim at its suppression by coercive methods. Any reasons which plead in favour of the exclusion in this case will, a fortiori, serve to justify the maintenance of it, in a country in which this religion is predominant or established   more
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PetersSmith says2014-11-10T23:31:19.2970216-06:00
Remember, currently ANYTHING and everything that is said in a confession is confidential. Only one example of the privilege being revoked is in Ireland, in the wake of several sex abuse scandals, the Fine Gael–Labour government announced plans to criminalize failure to report an allegation of child abuse, even if made during confession.
PetersSmith says2014-11-10T23:31:58.8438249-06:00
At least that I know of, on Wikipedia.
missmedic says2014-11-11T09:17:20.7436974-06:00
The Catholic church is responsible for the systematic rape of thousands of children and none of the priest spoke out, so it would be safe to say they can keep a secret.
PetersSmith says2014-11-11T09:18:24.1753304-06:00
Missmedic: That's not what the question is asking.

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