News Items That Have Caught My Attention Recently

Friday, Jul. 06, 2018

A story published by Catholic News Agency recently had the headline, “Australian Priests Willing to go to Jail rather than Break the Confessional Seal.”

The issue of the confessional seal continues to be raised in government circles in the United States, western Europe, Australia, and an increasing number of other countries.

The argument is that priests should report to the police anyone who confesses to child abuse. Because of the seal of Confession, those who commit child abuse can get their sin absolved on the spot without fear of being reported to the authorities.

In decades of hearing confessions, I have never had anyone confess child abuse, and my fellow priests tell me much the same thing. And if anyone did confess such a sin, I would not give absolution, but ask him or her to turn themselves in to the police. That would be their penance, one they would be unable to fulfil without actually going to the police.

There are no circumstances in which a priest could break the seal of Confession. This is an absolute in the Catholic Church. But supposing one did, and it got around, that would be the last time anyone anywhere would confess to child abuse.

So, the argument that the confessional provides a haven for child abusers is false.

+The question of whether women deacons can be instituted in the Catholic Church is under scrutiny by a Vatican commission established by Pope Francis. On major matters such as this, the Catholic Church looks to the Orthodox Churches.

It is noteworthy, then, that the Patriarch of Alexandria, who presides over Orthodoxy in all of Africa, recently ordained a number of women as deacons and appointed six nuns as subdeacons.

This possibility has been under discussion in Orthodoxy for decades and it is likely that many Orthodox Churches will now move in the direction of ordaining women as deacons.

I have stated in this column before my hope that women will be ordained deacons in the Catholic Church. The growing theological consensus is that this can happen, and it would provide a powerful gesture of further inclusion of women in leadership in the Church.

+Cities around the country are discouraging their residents from giving money to street people. I don’t mean to boast, but the only cash I ever carry in my pocket is for street people. I believe one should, in the name of Christ, almost always give money to street people.

Pope Francis thinks so, too. Earlier this year, he said that one should always give money to street people. Even if they spend it on alcohol, this may be the only happiness they have in life.

There exists today a great suspicion and hostility toward street people. One hears on a regular basis that around the corner from where the street person is begging one will find a nice shiny Mercedes. In other words, street people garner great incomes from their begging. This is a myth that needs debunking.

+ The Episcopal Grace Cathedral in San Francisco recently announced a “Beyonce Mass.” Music by the star, videos of her performances, dancing to her rhythms, and story-telling about the star will replace the scriptures and the traditional forms of liturgy.

The liturgy is being spearheaded by an assistant professor of Old Testament at San Francisco Theological Seminary, who teaches a popular class to ministry students titled “Beyonce and the Bible.”

Remind me never to take a course at SFTS.

Msgr. M. Francis Mannion is pastor emeritus of St. Vincent de Paul Parish.

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