Seal of Confession – Inviolable…

The Big Questions, a discussion show broadcast live on BBC 1 on Sundays, recently included the topic: Are any sins unforgivable” 

Francis Davis

Francis Davis

The presenter, Nicky Campbell, inevitably raised the issue of child abuse by priests.  He turned to the token Catholic on the panel, to suggest that priests should report anyone to the police who confessed that sin  and he, Professor Francis Davis (impressive academic title notwithstanding) hadn’t a clue how to explain and defend the seal of Confession. It took the Anglican  a couple of seats away, to do so.  In fact, Davis appears to concede that there is a case for breaking the inviolable seal of Confession. Tell me if I’m misunderstanding him. You can click here to see the show for yourself – scroll along to 39.14 to hear Nicky introduce the question directed at Francis Davis and notice his apparent concession at 41.06.

Davis has a column in the Catholic Times, which I stopped reading because Mgr Loftus’ column is published just below the Davis piece and I just can’t take both on the same day, over the same cuppa.  I need a break, so I generally forget, conveniently, to go back to digest the Davis stuff – and it is “stuff” – the last column I read (5/2/16) is akin to a personal diary of his drinking habits as he participated in the fashionable  Dry January campaign.  When he writes about Catholic matters it’s a case of not knowing whether to laugh or cry. Not sure why he’s published above the Mgr Loftus column but it sure ain’t to provide a contrast. They’re both “liberals” to their fingertips.

As we enter Lent today, Ash Wednesday, we might reflect on and discuss the importance of Confession – and explain to the lurkers why no priest may ever divulge anything they learn in Confession.

110 responses

      • Editor,

        To be fair, I thought Francis Davis looked very uncomfortable during the discussion on the seal of confession. He just didn’t know what to say. I actually felt sorry for him. I think we have to allow for the fact that (either) he may be too young to have been taught the faith properly (or) he has become so immersed in liberalism that he’s forgotten what he was taught.

        There didn’t seem to be any malice about him, he just didn’t know. IMHO, the person who is to blame for his appearance on the show, is the local church, the bishop, who should be vetting the employees in the Catholic press and those appearing on TV religion shows.

        He may be feeling quite foolish now, when he sees himself unable to answer the question, and it may lead him away from the confusion of the liberal mindset. We should pray for him.

        • Josephine,

          I think your sympathy might be a bit misplaced. If Mr. Davis knew nothing about the teaching of the Church on Confession, then he should not have accepted the invitation to appear on the program.

          But I agree that we should pray for him. Esp. after he receives Editor’s note! 🙂

        • Josephine,

          You are obviously very kind but, as RCA Victor says, Mr Davis should not have accepted the invitation – nor should any liberal – to participate in a programme in the capacity of defender of the Faith when he is among those attacking it from within. It’s called integrity.

      • CIC 983 §1. The sacramental seal is inviolable. Accordingly, it is absolutely wrong for a confessor in any way to betray the penitent, for any reason whatsoever, whether by word or in any other fashion.

        CIC 984 §1. The confessor is wholly forbidden to use knowledge acquired in confession to the detriment of the penitent, even when all danger of disclosure is excluded.

        CIC 1388 §1. A confessor who directly violates the sacramental seal incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See.

        Absolution from this sin and the restoration to full communion with the Church are the exclusive competence of the Holy See.

        Someone mentioned that the fact of confessing a sin/crime is a sure sign of repentance; however, we must remember the firm purpose of amendment that is also part of the sacrament: in the case of a crime, this should surely include reporting oneself to the police. Would a refusal to do so justify the refusal of absolution? I think so.

        • Perplexed

          “Someone mentioned that the fact of confessing a sin/crime is a sure sign of repentance; however, we must remember the firm purpose of amendment that is also part of the sacrament: in the case of a crime, this should surely include reporting oneself to the police. Would a refusal to do so justify the refusal of absolution? I think so.”

          No, there is no constraint laid upon a sinner to turn himself over to the police. The repentant sinner goes to confession to receive the absolution of God and receive a penance for his sins. In certain cases he may also be bound to make restitution for harm done, such as returning stolen money annoymously to the person it was taken from. But where direct restitution is not possible, or is very difficult, or would be to no avail, other forms of restitution may be applied. The bottom line is that the Church does not impose upon a repentant sinner the absolute neccesity to turn himself in, because that would most likely cause many to abandon a Sacrament which is chiefly there to dispense God’s mercy to the immortal soul. It is for the lawful civil authoities to pursue criminal acts and prosecute where appropriate, the Church does not involve herself in that process in any way. The most a priest can do in cases of very serious crimes is advise a penitent to turn himself in or seek other help, but he cannot command it under pain of refusal to absolve.

          • Athanasius,

            Could one not argue that the penance for his sins could/should include reporting his crime to the police as a way of making restitution for the harm done? Surely if I recognize my sin/crime, that would also imply the acceptance of its consequences for myself and my duty to respond to those I have harmed?

            While you say the priest cannot command it, would you consider it proper for a penitent to reach that conclusion himself as a condition for a valid confession?

            • Perplexed,

              The simple answer to your question is no, the Church has never demanded, either directly or by moral pressure, that penitents in certain cases hand themselves over to the police as a condition of their absolution. The Sacrament is there solely to administer the supernatural mercy of God to a sinful soul. How that soul then decides to make restitution is a matter for individual conscience, but it has no bearing on the validity of the absolution, assuming true sorrow and a firm purpose of amendment on the penitent’s part of course.

    • I agree – absolutely inviolable.

      I also wonder how the critics of the Confessional Seal think it works. Priests hearing confessions don’t necessarily know who the penitent is. I never go to my own parish, I always go to one of the city churches where they have confessions all week and it suits me better, than the parish where confessions are only on a Saturday night.

      Do they really think the priest is going to ask for somebody’s name and address so they can go and report them to the police?

      • “Priests hearing confessions don’t necessarily know who the penitent is.”. That, of course, would be the case in a traditional confessional (ie priest in centre and penitent kneeling behind grille either side). Unfortunately, though, in the modern church it has become very popular for priest & penitent to face one another in a small room. Not a good idea, in my opinion. Minister Alan Shatter, former Irish minister for Justice, and a member of the Jewish community, attempted to introduce measures which would require the breaking of the confessional seal in cases of child abuse. He didn’t succeed, thankfully, and although there were some voices raised in protest at his proposal there wasn’t half as much noise from the clergy and faithful as there should have been. Alan Shatter has now been cast into the proverbial political wilderness (thankfully)!

    • If any person confesses to such a sin ,in the fact they have done so surely must mean that they have a firm purpose of amendment if not why then confess such a sin . If Priests are to go down that road your as well putting recording devices in confessionals . Can mind many years ago of the Priest who heard Manuels confession god if it was now they would want to put him on the rack and interrogate him. Confession is sacred and it has to stay that way.

    • Do you not mean “plus NE change? If you haven’t command of the French language, perhaps you should post in your mother tongue.

    • CBucket,

      I think that is what would happen, that the priest can only absolve if the penitent shows true contrition which would involve making restitution which, in the case of a serious criminal offence, would involve turning himself in to the authorities.

      • Michaela,

        I don’t know about that – in some parishes where I go, you get three Hail Marys no matter what your sins – LOL!

      • Michaela

        No, you are dead wrong. The priest can make no such demand upon a penitent because the Church makes no such demand. In her sacred history there is not one occasion where a repentent sinner has been formally commanded by the priest to hand himself over to the law as a condition of absolution. That would be to turn the infinite mercy of God on sinful souls into an extension of our earthly justice system.

        • Athanasius,

          Thank you for that and of course you are right. I should have put “may” instead of “should” as I imagine that if the sin is also a serious crime, the priest may suggest that the penitent go to the authorities, but not command him as part of the process to do so. Do you think a priest might do that, without in any way infringing on the relationship between priest and penitent? Or would that be wrong? I’m really not very clear about this.

          • Michaela

            I suppose it is possible that a priest might advise a penitent to report himself to the authorities, depending on the crime, but I’ve not heard of such advice ever having been given. As I said before, the Sacrament of penance is a divine tribunal instituted by Our Lord exclusively for the salvation souls. Assuming genuine repentence and a firm purpose of amendment on the part of the sinner, justice is met primarily by the penance given during absolution. It is for the absolved penitent to then decide what is or is not possible regarding natural restitution to victims. It could be that by handing himself over to the authorities other innocents would be greatly hurt by the ensuing scandal, for example, close family and friends. In such cases, the penitent may choose to make his restitution in some other way, known only to him and God. Our Lord, remember, promises to lift the burden on the souls of sinners who repent before Him, not increase it.

            A final thought. It seems to me that in these confusing times the Confession debate is yet another example of a previously clear Catholic distinction between the divine and the secular becoming very obscured. We must not entertain such confusion by entering into unneccesary questions and exchanges. We must think of Confession as the Church thinks of it, which is a Sacrament of consolation instituted by Our Lord who asks only that we carry our sorrowful souls to Him by an act of humility to counter the pride that caused our fall. “Come to Me all ye who labour and are heavy burdened and I will give you rest”. That’s Our Lord’s only demand.

            • Athanasius,

              I did not mean to “entertain such confusion” – but I suppose I’ve been guilty of thinking about this issue too much as it is presented in the media, trying to think what the priest might be allowed to do, without breaking the seal, as this is (to me, anyway) a whole new field. I never thought I would have to defend the seal of confession in this way, that priests would confess to child abuse and the question arising about what the confessor could do in such cases, the police etc. I must apologise for my stupidity. I wish I was half as knowledgeable as you on this and other subjects. Thanks for correcting me on this before I put my foot in it again!

              • Michaela

                Please accept my apology if I came across in my exchanges with you as in any way suggesting that you are stupid. You are far from stupid and far from being alone in asking such searching questions. We are all affected to some degree or another by this present crisis in the Church, myself included.

                I am in no way superior to anyone else on this blog either in knowledge or virtue. Whatever I possess is by the grace of God despite my failings, and I have many!

                Perhaps it is that I have studied many of the questions raised here for at least two decades that gives me something of an edge on at least some of the subjects. But remember, I also had to start from scratch.

                We are all here as Catholics trying to help each other through a very difficult period in the Church’s history, that’s all that matters. If I ever come across as superior, then, please be good enough to state the fact in charity. I’m truly sorry if I caused you to feel in any way inferior either in your faith or understanding of it. That was never my intention. God forbid!

                But at least this exchange has afforded us the opportunity to air a confusing matter on the blog and clear up misunderstandings, so it has not been a waste of time.

                • Athanasius,

                  Not at all, no way do you come across as superior or suggesting I am stupid. I suggested that, as I can be stupid! You have also said many times that your knowledge is by the grace of God and I appreciate that. So, honestly, no way do you come across as superior.

                  I also agree that this blog gives us the chance to check out things and clear up misunderstandings, and I thank the good God for that!

    • Not if there is genuine sorrow and a firm purpose of amendment on the part of the penitent. These, to the best of my knowledge, are the ONLY conditions for valid confession and reception of absolution. Crime is not for the priest to make a judgement upon; that is for the civil authorities. The priest only concerns himself with the sin(s) of the penitent before him.

        • Well Athanasius, It’s not common to me, and I don’t believe that it is correct. I was taught that in the case of such crimes against others – ie, murder, theft etc, absolution is dependent upon the penitent making “good”, as far as he is able, to those he has robbed – either of a life or of property, and the correct action of the priest is to withhold absolution if a penitent refuses to accept this. Christ told us to “render unto Caesar, the things that are Caesar’s'”, and in the case of someone who has committed a crime, they should accept the judgement of the state. Of course this does not mean that the priest can ignore the seal of confession, but surely he has a duty to uphold the law of the land, and therefore advise the penitent that until he has confessed his crime to the lawful authorities he cannot be absolved?

          The best way of demonstrating “genuine sorrow” is to confess one’s sin and accept the punishment merited. Better in this life than in the next.

          • Therese

            It is correct. I think you may have misunderstood what was taught to you.

            Yes, restitution is incumbent upon the penitent sinner in the cases you cite, but note “in as far as he is able”. This qualification is very important for it varies in accordance with circumstances and excludes demands on the part of the priest for a particular course of action to be followed. If applied as rigorously as you suppose it should be, such a mindset on the part of the Church and the priests would surely undermine the infinite mercy of God, restricting it to human limitations and demands, whcih would cause many to abandon the Sacrament to the ultimate ruination of their souls. As for rendering to Caesar, you quote this out of context.

            When the woman caught in adultery was freely forgiven by Our Lord, did He then say: ‘Now, go hand thyself over to be stoned in accordance with the law of the land as restitution’? No, He did not lay such a burden upon her and neither should we insist that the burden be laid on penitent sinners.

            And what of women who have confessed abortions? Should they be granted what other murderers are not granted, e.g., freedom from restitution, just because abortion, a worse crime before God, is not a crime according to Caesar? You see the difficulties you run into when you go down the road of confusing a Sacrament of divine mercy with secular law? No, the Church asks only true sorrow and amendment of life as the essential prerequisites for absolution. That’s how infinitely merciful Our Lord is to sinners. The law of the land has to run its own separate course of human justice apart from the supernatural Sacrament, which is sealed.

            • Athanasius

              I know you are a staunch defender of the Faith, but it seems to me to be outrageous, and unjust, to absolve a murderer without him/her receiving a strict condition that the crime is confessed to the authorities. What of the victim’s family, never to know who was responsible for taking away their loved one? Where is their justice? I take your point about abortion, of course, but sadly there is no penalty in the law for such a crime.

              The law of the land has to run its own separate course of human justice apart from the supernatural Sacrament, which is sealed..

              There is no dispute from me that the supernatural Sacrament of Confession is sealed. There can be no question of the priest informing the law – or anyone else – of what he has heard in the confessional.

              There is not another teaching of the Church that I cannot understand, but if this is one of them, then it must be the exception. I will ponder on it in the hope that I can see the justice of it.

              • Therese

                I think you are more likely to see the justice of it if you think as God thinks, not as man thinks. Confession is a supernatural Sacrament of mercy, not an exercise in jurisprudence. I have to say that I am surprised by your understanding of the Sacrament, and even more surprised by your apparent disappointment that a sinner should have his sins so easily forgiven. But such is the great and infinite mercy of God and the constant teaching of the Church.

                The salvation of souls is much more important than earthy vengeance. Justice is served primarily when the penitent confesses sorrowfully before God and receives a penance. If he is able, then restitution of some kind or other becomes incumbent for justice’ sake. But this latter part, if not directly attainable, can be offset by another form of restitution. Hence, the woman confessing abortion could make restitution by prayers and penances, or by alms giving, or by joining the Catholic struggle to halt abortion. It doesn’t have to be according to our mind, but rather according to circumstances and God’s will. For me, the Sacrament of Confession is the most consoling evidence of the infinite goodness and mercy of God to even the worst of sinners.

                • Athanasius

                  I’m sorry that you have misinterpreted my position. I have written nothing to imply that I am disappointed that a sinner should have his sins forgiven. I hope and pray that every murderer, paedophile, abortionist and Satanist will repent, receive mercy, and enjoy eternal happiness. BUT, as you state:

                  If he is able, then restitution of some kind or other becomes incumbent for justice’ sake.

                  Most murderers are able. The woman who has had an abortion cannot bring her child back to life again, but the murderer can confess and bring some level of “closure” to the victim’s family. This would demonstrate a true sorrow, and of course, mean that they would have to accept the punishment of the law of the land, but surely that’s a small price to pay for the crime committed and for receiving God’s mercy and forgiveness.

                  For me, the Sacrament of Confession is the most consoling evidence of the infinite goodness and mercy of God to even the worst of sinners.

                  Well of course. That’s a given.

      • Spiritus,

        My point was that there is also a requirement to make restitution where possible and a priest may (I shouldn’t have said “should”) suggest that a penitent turn himself in, but not insist on it. I do take the difference between the sin and crime, which I hadn’t really processed properly before putting up my original post, and apologies for that tardiness.

        I’m interested in the question of restitution for these cases though and can’t help wondering if a priest might suggest to the penitent about going to the authorities, without making it a condition for absolution which I first thought would be the case – I see that that’s wrong now.

        • Michaela, Therese, Spiritus, Athanasius et al,

          I wasn’t sure myself of the matter of absolution in the confessing of a sin that is also a crime, in the context of the priest’s advice to the penitent (obviously the seal is inviolable) so I decided to wait until I could ask a trusted priest about the issue, before commenting. It seemed to me that any sensible priest would, in fact, advise a penitent to show true remorse and make restitution by going to the authorities, but I wasn’t sure about whether such advice would extend to withholding absolution. I have now, only a few minutes ago, had a conversation with a priest who said the following.

          Firstly, the priest cannot compel anyone to go to the authorities. He need not, however, automatically absolve.

          Father continued: God’s mercy cannot be separated from His justice, which is why the conditions for absolution include “a firm purpose of amendment.” If someone comes to Confession having, for example, knocked down and killed someone in a drunk driving incident, yet expressed an unwillingness to admit to the authorities that he was the person they were looking for, that suggests a lack of a firm purpose of amendment.

          When I intervened to ask if the priest would, therefore, withhold absolution, Father said that that would have to be explored with the penitent.

          He added that it is important not to reduce Confession to a sort of “magic” where someone guilty of such a serious sin which is also a crime, is automatically absolved and can walk away thinking that that makes everything all right.

          All of that makes perfect sense to me. The priest is not an arm of the State, is not compelling anyone to go to the authorities to admit their crime, but he is faithfully applying and expounding Catholic teaching about the conditions required for absolution, which includes a firm purpose of amendment.

          I think, happily, that this priest’s explanation means that everyone is right.. in a way 😀

          • (reply to Feb 15th 7:19pm by Editor. Replies very often go into the wrong part of a discussion lately, I find. They do not often follow on from the comment they refer to )

            Yes, that priest is quite correct in what he has said, and of course a firm purpose of amendment would mean accepting the punishment to fit the crime, or at least SHOULD mean that the penitent in question would make a serious effort not to re-offend and turn his/her life around. My point re: absolution was that we cannot put a limit on God’s forgiveness, ie I will forgive you only if you….. And yes, of course, the priest can withhold absolution if he feels that there is not true sorrow for the sin and /or a firm purpose of amendment, as in the case of a penitent who would refuse,point blank to confess a crime to the civil authorities.

            • Spiritus,

              To clarify, Father did not say absolution would be conditional on the penitent agreeing to go to the authorities. That’s not what I reported. He said that a refusal to do so suggests a lack of a firm purpose of amendment, but that a priest would then “explore” the situation with the penitent – not automatically refusing absolution, but not automatically absolving, either.

              The priest, remember, is a “judge” in Confession – he doesn’t dispense absolution routinely, but must be satisfied that there is a firm purpose of amendment, that all the conditions are fulfilled. This may be more easily identifiable in the confessing of a sin which is also a very serious crime, but it is really the role of every confessor to “judge” the penitent’s contrition (or lack of it!)

              • Editor,

                your wisdom and discernment leave you in very grave danger of becoming the next Doctor of the Church!
                Many thanks for your research on an enthralling topic. I have benefitted greatly from this discussion and the input of all the bloggers on it. A Blessed Lent to one and all!

                • Perplexed,

                  You are very kind but don’t confuse my alleged wisdom and discernment with my humble role as mere messenger. I made a phone call and reported the details. Still, if that gets me a place on the list of Doctors of the Church, who am I to complain? After all, I’ve said more than once that I didn’t seek this greatness, this greatness has been thrust upon me… 😀

                  Anyway, although everyone else calls me “editor” and without in any way anticipating the decision of the Church (cos that will annoy Sean) you can call me “Doc”… 😉

  1. Am not on here to defend any sort of Abuse ,but I bet for everyone guilty there is another one innocent . It happened in my Parish our Priest was accused of abuse and a few months later the accuser dropped the complaint . It didn’t help the Priest involved MUD STICKS . If money wasn’t involved I wonder just how many accusations would be thrown at Priests . You here a lot of “well all I want is justice”statements what about the lies -There are PLENTY of them- but as you ED say,it’s ok it’s only Catholics their bashing it’s open season,one only has to listen to some so called comedians on TV . Some of them can’t go 5 minutes without mentioning a so called joke involving Priests,if it was Muslims ,now there’s a different story.

    • A report last week stated that most people in the BBC knew what Jimmy Saville was up to, including powerful people, and they all turned a blind eye.

      So why is the BBC not held responsible in the same way that they held various Popes and bishops responsible for the cover-ups in the Church?

      Terry Wogan’s priest friend, Fr Darcy, has been in the news a lot recently. He is the one who accused the Church of covering up child abuse in Ireland in the Gay (well named) Byrne show.

      I wonder if he ever asked Terry if he ever spotted what Saville was alleged to have done.

      • Yes, well, Father Brian D’Arcy tells Sunday’s Songs of Praise special that staunch atheist Sir Terry is in heaven and ‘was closer to God than he realised’ ….If he’s not [in heaven] I don’t want to be there because I’d like to be where he is, because that’s where goodness is.

        I’m afraid that’s just the kind of reasoning that far too many “spokesmen” for the Church spout these days. Their instruction in the Faith must have been abysmal.

        • Therese, as a very young thing I was a pupil of Fr. D’Arcy in an Ethics course. I took issue with him on a regular basis. Even though only 22 years old I knew he was wrong. I spoke to the then Archbishop of Dublin about him only to be told that he was coming to heel, so to speak. So here he is so many years later spouting even worse heresy. And the thing is, he is being financially supported by the man in the Dublin Archdiocese pew!!

          I’ve stopped financially supporting these charlatans long ago.

        • Therese,

          I read that in the Catholic papers. Terry Wogan was clear about his loss of faith and I think he ended up saying he didn’t even believe in the existence of God, so wherever he is now, it can’t be with God, since God doesn’t force himself on anyone. Maybe he repented at the end, I hope so, but if not, he isn’t in heaven. So, Fr D’Arcy is taking quite a risk saying he’d rather be where Terry Wogan is than where God is! These liberal types are brainless. LOL!

          • I would take anything this Fr D’Arcy would say with a large pinch of salt.

            If Wogan didn’t repent at the end it wouldn’t be for the want of this man trying. He wrote that he spent the last few days with Wogan and his family after rushing over from Ireland.

            This is the person who is all for women priests and reckons that there would be nothing wrong in a married working man (no doubt from the professions) spending the weekends “saying the eucharist”.

            There would be nothing wrong with him either sending in a letter to the Archbishop of Dublin handing in his notice.

            • “There would be nothing wrong with him (Fr. Brian Darcy) either sending in a letter to the Archbishop of Dublin handing in his notice.”
              Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin probably wouldn’t accept it! The are cast from the same clay, to a large degree. I mean, Archbishop Martin is hardly a staunch defender of the Catholic faith!

        • I would like to put out a question . ED do you think our own lapsed kind are the worst ,as in my own experience I would say they are .I have actually seen them recoil from our Faith ,and I mean that in the strongest way possible.

          • Faith of Our Fathers

            I would say that you’re probably right. The most hositle to the Faith that I’ve come across are generally lapsed Catholics.

  2. Editor,

    It seems we Yanks aren’t allowed to view the video – I suppose because we told King George to stuff it back in 1776…however…

    I looked up the Professor’s Catholic credentials, and having done so, I am left wondering how he qualified as a representative of the Catholic Church. The only remote connection I can see is a “BA Theology & Social Policy,” whatever that is. Certainly doesn’t sound like a platform from which to teach or understand the Social Reign of Christ the King. Here is his resume:

    You will notice that his resume also claims a leadership role in something called “The Edward Cadbury Centre for the Public Understanding of Religion,” also at the Univ. of Birmingham, but I cannot find his name anywhere on the website. This Cadbury Centre (named after the chocolate bar??) looks like more of the same: religion at the service of sociology, and therefore subordinate to it.

    In short, the perfect modern Catholic-in-Name-Only for a BBC discussion….I;’d say the VII revolution has certainly figured out how to perpetuate itself….

    • RCA Victor

      Thank you for that link. I emailed Francis Davis to alert him to this discussion, in a few well chosen (if not “choice”!) words.

      So, let’s help educate him, folks – politely!

    • RCA Victor,

      It is just a puzzle to me, how many jobs there are like those people listed on the Cadbury Centre page. Inter-faith co-ordinators etc. It’s real big business these days.

      How can a Catholic, even a nominal one like Davis, justify promoting false religions? Do they never think about Jesus’ warning: “What does it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

      • Nicky,

        In the dark era of Vatican II, there are no longer any false religions. We’re all on the same smiley-faced journey to the Omega Point….i.e. the Church has affirmed the doctrine of Freemasonry. Hmmmm, what an odd coincidence….

        As for Jesus’ clear warning, there is always a legion of spin-meisters ready to “nuance” his meaning into meaningless feel-good gibberish.

    • MM,

      Thank you for that useful link – I don’t always like that site, if, as I believe, it’s the same one where they’ve got it entirely wrong about the SSPX but on this, it seems to be accurate, at my usual speed-reading to catch up!

      • Editor,

        Yep, that’s the site that gets it wrong about the SSPX – by evaluating the situation based on irrelevancies.

  3. Was Professor Davis not taught that we are confessing to God, that the priest is just the intermediary, to act as judge on whether to absolve not to judge on whether the police should be informed. Every person has a right to communicate with God and receive the power of his graces in the way he chose to given them, when he said “whose sins you shall forgive they are forgiven”. I was taught that, how come Prof Davis wasn’t?

    • Theresa Rose

      I was interested to read your link because it includes mention of General Absolutions, which are banned but which continue to take place in parishes. I was hearing of one recently where there was some kind of penitential service where the people were told to process up to the front and confess one sin only to the priest (so others could possibly hear) and I was shocked to the core at this.

      The Church is under demonic attack, and the devil is using people within the Church to do his work. Not just Professor Davis – he’s only one of many Catholic journalists and people in education who are damning their souls by leading people astray. There must be a special place in Hell for those in the media who are abusing the privilege of having a newspaper column or a TV/radio show at their disposal.

      For the record, I thought the Professor’s performance on The Big Questions was abysmal.

  4. Editor,

    After the usual lengthy search for a BBC page where I could send in a comment, I finally found it: (this is for their radio programs) (or programmes, if you prefer the King’s English).

    So I sent in this message:

    If the purpose of Nicky Campbell’s “The Big Questions” radio program on unforgivable sins was to embarrass the Catholic Church, spread misinformation and confuse the faithful, he couldn’t have picked a better speaker than Francis Davis, who is obviously clueless about the Catholic Faith – at least, regarding the seal of Confession. So clueless, in fact, that he had to be corrected by an Anglican! So my question to Mr. Campbell is this: why was this ignorant person chosen to represent the teachings of the Catholic Church on this topic?

    If Mr. Campbell would care to explain his poor choice, he is welcome to come to the Catholic Truth Scotland blog, where this program, and Mr. Davis’ performance, is being discussed under the topic “Seal of Confession – inviolable…”

    And then, just to rub their noses in it, I signed it “Sincerely yours in Christ.”

    • RCA Victor,

      I’m glad you mentioned the lengthy search for a means of sending the BBC a message – I thought I was alone in that experience. They really don’t make it easy to communicate with them.

      That was a great idea to write to the BBC – they supposedly place all communications before some “power that be” so at least the message has been given; whether they heed it (unlikely) is up to them.

      Just one teeny weeny point – our website/blog address is “catholictruthscotland” but the name of our publication is simply Catholic Truth. We had to add “Scotland” to get our then new domain name, after – wait for this – a disgruntled priest bought up just about every version of “Catholic Truth” when our original website joined the “disappeared” – long story recorded in the newsletter at the time but life’s too short. I’m certain you know all this but I thought I’d mention it for the benefit of others, because an awful lot of people still refer to us as “Catholic Truth Scotland”.

      Again, well done for writing to the BBC. Ironically, when I was contacted by another BBC Sunday morning programme to ask if I would like to participate (for a second time) they also asked me if I would like to suggest some topics. One of the first to spring to mind, which I sent, was the rationale of the media for nearly always selecting dissident/liberal Catholics to interview/participate in “thought for the day” and other programmes. Got a swift “Terrific Idea, we really like that” sort of reply and haven’t heard from them since! Still, a gal’s gotta try, surely?

  5. Even if a priest reported a penitent what could he tell the police?

    That someone came into a semi-darkened room with a curtained grill between him and this person and in a low whisper confessed to committing a crime which the police knew nothing about.

    I have a feeling that the priest could be locked up for wasting police time.

  6. The priest sits in the confessional in the person of Christ administering divine justice (the penance) and mercy (the absolution) to the souls of genuinely repentant sinners. He is not there as an informant of the State.

    Should a priest ever breach that sacred supernatural seal between God and a penitent sinner, he would lose his own soul for all eternity, for it would constitute a betrayal of the mercy of God promised to all who repent of their sins. In other words, priests are bound in conscience never to reveal to a single soul what they hear in confession, no matter how horrendous the sins confessed. So it’s not just the inviolability of the seal of confession these vengeful people of today are seeking to eradicate, but also the inviolability of conscience, which underpins both the UN and EU Charters on Human Rights. And we all know what such a precedent would set for future despotic governments.

    The devil hates the Sacrament of confession because it snatches souls from his grasp. What better method to employ in this godless age, then, than to stir up the unruly emotions of non-religious people to agitate on his behalf for an end to the sacred seal and the beginning of a new era of vengeance posing as justice. If it were not for his blind pride he would see that he can never succeed in destroying so consoling and merciful a divinely-instituted Sacrament. Christ Our Lord instituted it and we know that the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it.

    • Athanasius,

      Well said indeed!

      I remember noting, when Enda Kenny was playing to the gallery in Ireland by saying he was thinking of making it a crime for priests not to report peers who confessed to abuse (as if they’re likely to do so!) that even the notoriously dissident Association of Catholic Priests in Ireland said they would go to jail before complying. They have apparently retained a drop, at least, of the “old Faith” .

      I tried to find the link but the only report showing is from the Catholic Herald and I am getting a warning that visiting that site may harm my computer. Doesn’t mention my soul but I decided not to take the risk anyway!

    • Athanasius,

      Well and beautifully said, truly. Have you ever thought about writing a commentary on the Catechism? (No I’m not joking) Your posts are invariably of equal quality as, for example, the margin commentaries in our 1962 Missals!

      • RCA Victor & Diamhuireduit,

        You are both too kind in your assessments of my contributions and I am truly humbled by them. But I have to say quite genuinely that there are far more worthy Catholic writers out there than I.

        What occurs to me, however, and I am only too willing to acknowledge the fact, is that I, like others here and elsewhere, RCA Victor included, whatever our level of understanding of the present crisis in the Church and the world, and however great or small our contributions in writing to help others in a time of great confusion, is entirely a work of God and a grace unmerited. I am sure everyone will agree with that.

        Still, I am hopeful that your kind words will convince editor that I really should be climbing the pay scale!!

  7. I watched the clip and the response of Francis Davis.

    RCA Victor
    The choice of this type of representative to speak on TV or radio is so annoying.
    Last Sunday morning, on BBC 4, Cardinal Murphy O’ Connor was chosen to clarify matters for us ( despite the book claiming unsavoury Pope election goings on )
    He was followed by Robert Mickens!

    On Radio Scotland’s Sunday programme, where the issue of abortion, was being discussed, the lady who was anti abortion, was apologetic almost in her presentation. At no point was there a clear explanation as to exactly why abortion is a very serious sin. Once again there was no reason given to people listening, as to why the Catholic Church teaches this

    I wrote to both programmes, and have done for a long time, but same old, same old!

    I know the Anglican in the programme clarified the special nature of the confessional, but how great it would be to have heard a clear description of the sacred nature of confession……..from a Catholic!

    • Spero,

      It just occurred to me to look back at Davis’ qualifications, because I couldn’t remember if he actually stated that he was a Catholic! Just checked again, and it does not – though his bio claims he writes for the Catholic Times and the Catholic Herald and Church Times.

      So does anyone know if this man is, in fact, Catholic? And has anyone read his columns in the above newspapers?

  8. I gave up reading Mr Davis’s articles long ago, they frequently do not make much sense. I don’t know what sort of professor he is – no sign of a doctorate. He seems to have been involved in a number of academic institutions in the past but never at any one for very long. A sort of Micky Mouse professor maybe? Someone with more time on their hands than I have might do some digging.

    If he is unable to defend the seal of confession he should is totally unsuited to be interviewed on the media. Problem is that once an outlet has a name as a ‘Catholic spokesperson’ they do not look elsewhere.

    • I’ve read some of his articles which I remember were presented as a layman’s view. It was typical liberal ideology. All about the laity running the Church and that’s about all I can remember. I had no idea he had any academic qualifications let alone be a professor, and as far as I can see his degree is at BA level, which is not usually sufficient for a professorship, I’d have thought. I don’t read his column very often, in fact I don’t get the paper very often but when I do, I don’t feel drawn to read his articles. The Catholic Times is packed with dissent, so I hardly ever read it.

    • Problem is that once an outlet has a name as a ‘Catholic spokesperson’ they do not look elsewhere.

      Unless they suss out that spokesperson as being of the traditional mindset. Then they go back to the drawing board.

  9. RCA Victor
    Francis Davis said he was a Catholic at one point on the programme, but he smilingly said he was at times lapsed, or words very near to that, which you can check out: as if that state of being, was something amusing, or a state of mind which might garner support from the audience/ or the public.
    Yet, even still, he was asked to be the Catholic representative.

    • FOOF, I’m rather nosy, so I wondered what you’d meant to link, and found it on Google. You’re right, and O how easy for the contemptible BBC to attack the Church by these ‘debates’. Just pitch a sneering, blaspheming atheist, and better still, one who is also a foul-mouthed ‘married’ sodomite, whose perversion is so praised in this sickest of societies, against a not too popular figure who set herself up to be ridiculed in a popular TV show, and game, set and match to the devil 😈.

  10. I’ve just come across this report about the “Super-Confessors” being sent out by Pope Francis for the Year of Mercy special absolutions.

    I was shocked to read the bit at the end where the Pope gives sympathy for the women who feel they have to abort. Nothing about the innocent victim baby in the womb.

    • And then we get the joint statement with Patriarch Kirrill where they say:

      ‘We call on all to respect the inalienable right to life. Millions are denied the very right to be born into the world. The blood of the unborn cries out to God (cf. Gen 4:10)’.

      I suppose this is the doctrine v pastoral practice idea in action? Such diabolical confusion.

  11. During the programme, the host, Nicky Campbell, introduced Francis Davis as a Catholic and, if my memory serves me, Davis agreed, and smilingly added words to the effect that he was at times lapsed.
    I was irritated at the time as the implication I took, was, that his being lapsed, a bit easy, a bit undecided, might garner support from the audience, or the public, and would thus convey his image as more palatable.
    This is pathetic.
    Even still, this is the person chosen to represent the Catholic voice in the media.
    Because this is the voice the media wants to be heard.

    • Spero,

      I, too,I thought Davis’ remark about being “sometimes lapsed” was pathetic. Typical of a juvenile embarrassed about being caught at one of the school’s week day Masses. Pathetic, with bells on.

  12. I visited St. Mungo’s church in Glasgow today and saw three nuns at the back of the church with a piety stall set up selling Eastern icons and other wares. Upon questioning one of the nuns to ascertain which order she belonged to, I was shocked to hear the reply: “I am Russian Orthodox”.

    So here we have the schismatic Russian orthodox being permitted to sell religious objects inside a Catholic church while the SSPX, which is fully Catholic and Traditional, is demonised and excluded as “not in full communion with Rome”. Truly, the spiritual blindness in Modernists is staggering! Talk about straining on a gnat while swallowing a camel, The hypocrisy is blatant.

    • Athanasius,

      That’s beyond belief. Let’s hope the Pope doesn’t decide to meet with a Satanist next, or heavens alone knows what we’ll be seeing in Catholic churches.

    • Athanasius,

      That really does beggar belief. What are those priests thinking of, giving permission for the Russian Orthodox nuns to sell their wares at the back of a Catholic church. They would never give that permission to the SSPX, as you say, so that is scarily shocking.

  13. Attention, one and all!

    As I’ve mentioned many times on this blog, we have a reader, an elderly Glaswegian gentleman, who insists on handing me a bag containing all the Catholic papers on sale at the back of churches, and this includes the (Not-So) Catholic Times, after Mass every Sunday. I emphasise at all times, that I do not ask for these papers, do not want them, and NEVER pay for them.

    Well, perhaps predictably, we are the subject of Mr Davis’ column in this week’s Catholic Times, and it is very nasty indeed. He is clearly livid that we have exposed his ignorance about the seal of Confession – so much so that he makes no reference to the topic (just “a recent TV appearance”) and, of course, uses the language of “attack” – we are “attacking” him (not correcting his error and exposing the poor level of “journalism” now commonplace in the so called Catholic press).

    Anyway, I don’t have time to quote from the piece now – I’ve only just scanned it myself – but will do so asap, probably some time tomorrow. In a kind of childish “dah, dah, dah dah dah” he suggests more than once that the fact that we are commenting on his column, shows that we are buying the paper, so the joke is on us, words to that effect. Pity he didn’t just leave well alone because, yet again, he has humiliated himself. Still, no complaints from moi – saves me doing it! I repeat, I cannot remember the last time I paid for a copy of the Catholic Times. A very VERY long time ago, be assured.

    In any case the last laugh is on him, since, while he repeatedly refers to our website as “small”, “little”, obscure”, he seems not to have noticed that the Catholic Times doesn’t have a website at all! Priceless.

    Stay tuned, more in due course…

  14. Editor,

    I also glance through the Catholic Times every now and again just to keep abreast of its revolutionary agenda. But, I hasten to add, like you, I never pay for the rag. I get it free from someone else.

    So, having read Francis Davis’ outburst against Catholic Truth, I can only say: ‘Ditto, Mr. Davis. Your attack on the Traditional Faith, upheld and defended here on Catholic Truth, should increase our readership and hopefully our contributor base.’ Many thanks for the publicity.

    Poor man! He writes for the so-called Catholic Times, renowned for its liberalism, in which no Traditional minded Catholic ever gets a say, and then claims he’s not a liberal. He further lists the names of liberals he esteems and then claims he is not a liberal. He waxes lyrical about all the social issues needing addressed in this world without once mentioning the primary mission of the Church, which is to save immortal souls, and then reiterates that he is not a liberal.

    Sorry Mr. Davis, but you are about as liberal as they come. Your religion is more Marxist socialism than the supernatural religion of those saints and martyrs you falsely attempt to align yourself with. They sacrificed their lives for the truth. You sacrifice the truth. That’s what liberals do!

    • Athanasius,

      I had a telephone call from a gentleman in England first thing this morning about this. He says he never pays for the Catholic Times either, just “borrows” a copy from the local cathedral, makes notes in a book so that he can quote nonsense to any priest friends who visit, and that’s it. “Borrowing” is a great idea! I make a point of not asking my source how he comes by his copies, but I do remember him quoting Hamish Fraser, the famous Scots convert from Communism, who said that to pay for these Catholic, so called, newspapers, would be a sin. And that was way before the crisis – and the papers – were as bad as they are now.

      I’ll be back shortly with some quotes from the Davis column, as promised.

      • The Francis Davis column in the Catholic Times dated 19th February, 2016, is headlined: Looking forward, not to the past which is your first clue that this is another cross between Catholic Tradition bashing and an outright hate-fest.

        Note: the extracts below are copied verbatim – I’ve not corrected grammatical or punctuation errors – it was hard enough work doing that when I was being paid for it, but I’m retired, now, folks, so live with it!


        Mr Davis begins:

        I want to tell you a very little joke. Are you ready? Yes, well, the extremely small joke is ‘Catholic Truth’.

        Now, before you jump off your chairs I am not talking about the magisterium but about an obscure website that has decided that Mgr Basil Loftus (seen elsewhere in this newspaper)*1 and I are worthy of being attacked.

        This little website posted a funny and scurrilous little rant about a recent TV appearance of mine and my article the other week expressing solidarity with those who have faced drinking problems.*2

        And, just as when I heard that a certain lobster-coloured prelate was incandescent about something I had written, I just want to say the joke is on those who run this little site: For they must have bought this newspaper to be able to read the columns that have got them so worked up into a lather.

        The anonymous blogger on this little website calls me a “liberal”… I am not a liberal but nor am I a dried up so-called “traditionalist” slugging it out over tinsel, tat and desperate arguments about which way the priest should face at the altar… the purpose of the Church is not a frilly parlour game but, as Pope Francis has said, to act as a lifeboat amidst the storms of our pilgrimage. It is not some (sad) identity game but the core business of life. Because I find the self-referential, tired, frightened and worn dimensions of conviction that others distract us with simply decadent in a world that struggles so much I am not a liberal. And it is intellectually lazy and theological self-referential again to cast out such an epithet.

        Which brings me back to that little joke of the very little blog.

        Columnists love it when you froth about anything we write. It means more people will read this newspaper. We want to provoke debate and conversation, challenge and inspiration. We want you to scribble in green ink to the Editor calling for our columns to be axed because every time you do it shows that you are reading us, buying the newspaper. We just wish that you would do it well, with nuanced understanding and a real ability to hear what has been said…

        It’s because we love the Church that we follow the example of Pope Francis and throw out deep challenge and call for a full conversation.

        As such we are part of the hopeful future of the universal Church rather than some self-invented past that never existed, or some identity cult dressed up as a ‘new evangelisation’.

        I think this mean, I’m afraid, that the joke is on those who can’t cope. They may even just be picking up their pens to complain (and prove that they bought the paper again) right now. END OF EXTRACTS.

        Well, folks, can you imagine the hapless editor of the Catholic Times publishing any letters from any of us, pointing out that we do not, and never could, in conscience, buy that paper? So, we’ll pass on the green ink.
        There’s always the April edition of Catholic Truth, of course, so Mr Davis can look forward to a mention there. Our readership is educated and informed in a way that those who buy the Catholic Times are not. It’s a long time, as I say, since I paid good money to purchase a copy, and it’s a very long time since I’ve encountered anyone else who has done so, but (and here’s the laugh) even the gentleman who insists on giving me a copy every week, tells me he never reads the Davis column – he shares my view that having to plough through the baloney in the Mgr Loftus column is enough of a penance for one Sunday!

        *1 Mgr Loftus column is published on the same page, just below the Francis Davis piece. That Mr Davis doesn’t appear to know that, suggests that even the columnists don’t read the paper right through!

        *2 Note that Mr Davis makes no mention of the nature of our criticism here. No mention of the topic, the seal of Confession and his inability to explain it. The Catholic Times readers are allowed to believe that we were just “attacking” him without any context being offered. And the column to which he refers was not about those who have faced drinking problems – there may have been a reference to such in there, I can’t recall, but I did read it at the time and thought what a piece of nonsense it was, Mr Davis keen to show that he knew all about the fad of “Dry January” where people cut down on or cut out alcohol consumption, on a sort of “let’s see what it’s like” basis. I remember thinking at the time that the entire piece was shallow, and on the same level as the various radio phone-in discussions on the same topic.

        • Editor,

          That’s a terrible article. It’s a shameless attack on this blog without having the humility to admit that he bottled it when asked to explain the seal of confession. I’d have had some respect for him if he had said he had a senior moment or his mind went blank because he knew the seal is unpopular with the child abuse campaign people, but to attack this blog instead is completely shameless.

  15. Not only does Mr Davis not know how to explain Catholic teaching on the seal of confession, he also seems unable to comprehend that one doesn’t need to buy the rag for which he writes (badly) in order to read the rubbish he writes. His hopes for an increase in the circulation of the organ for which he contributes will be dashed, so we should have a little pity for him.

    Yes, well, the extremely small joke is ‘Catholic Truth’.

    Now, before you jump off your chairs I am not talking about the magisterium.

    Very wise, as he clearly isn’t qualified to do any such thing.

  16. Therese

    The tragic irony is that liberals like Mr. Davis and his fellow Times columnist, Mgr. Basil Loftus, do think Magisterial Catholic Truth is a joke. Mgr. Loftus has attacked it for years in his heterodox writings and Mr. Davis, by siding with Mgr. Loftus and criticising this blog, which exists primarily to uphold Magisterial Catholic Truth, gives his hand away. Let the man come on here to debate, for example, ecumenism in light of consistent magisterial teaching, if he has the courage, and we’ll see just how Traditional or liberal he actually is. Hit and run from the safety of a heavily censored liberal rag is not how Catholics discuss and defend supernatural truth. At least he will get his say here, which is more than I could ever hope for at his headquarters. So there’s the challenge, Mr. Davis. What say ye?

    • Athanasius,

      It would be wonderful if Mr Davis took up your challenge, but I can’t see it myself. Will wait with great interest to see if he takes you on. If only! LOL!

      • Margaret Mary

        I know it’s a bit of a forlorn hope. Mr. Davis’ sort don’t enter into honest debate. They can’t, because every word of Traditional Magisterial teaching stands to defeat them.

        • Athanasius,

          Our occasional “Good Clean Fun” jokes threads aside, your challenge to Francis Davis is easily the best laugh I’ve had in ages! No WAY will he come on here to participate in our discussion – still, as I say, you’ve given us some fun. A bit naughty, since we’re in Lent, but…well…nobody’s perfect 😀

          • Editor

            I’m entitled to a bit of fun, struggling as I am to keep up my Lenten penance of giving up paying the bills!

  17. Athanasius

    Now don’t be cruel! Doesn’t your heart melt when you picture Mr Davis huddled in the circulation office, optimistically waiting for the number of sales to go up from those reading “this little website”?

    Now, I know you’ve got a sense of humour, but you’re stretching it to breaking point if you think that Mr Davis is capable (let alone honest enough) of debating Catholics such as yourself and others on “this little website”. The man cannot even give a cogent explanation of the basics of Catholic belief. Bless ‘im, he hasn’t got a clue.

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