December 10-16, 2001
volume 12, no. 160

Those in glass Confessionals should not throw stones

    Priests in England and Wales will no longer hear children's confessions in traditional closed confessionals. Children must now be heard openly in church or in glass-fronted confessionals with the priest and penitent in plain view. This is one of 83 wide-ranging recommendations made by the Nolan Review, an independent committee that inquired into child abuse within the Catholic Church in the two nations and release its final report last September.

    The Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, who commissioned the inquiry, have accepted its findings and are already putting them into practice. Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham, leader of the implementation team, said that priests were themselves sensitive to the risks of being hidden in an enclosed space with another person. Many would welcome the regulation. Nichols pointed out that some newer churches had glass-fronted confessionals, which would now become the norm (Our Sunday Visitor, October 28, 2001).

    For me, what is surprising is the absurdness of this apparently prudent measure to prevent child abuse. In fact, it assumes as a presupposition that the average English priest is a pedophile, and because of this, mandates a profound change in the millenary practice of a complete discretion in everything that surrounds the sacrament of confession.

    What would the holy confessor Cure d'Ars, Saint John Marie Vianney, say about how they are ransacking this sacred space where man seeks the refuge of Sanctifying Grace through the Sacrament of Penance in the privacy of the confessional?

    Let me analyze only the presupposition. Instead of acting on the generalization that priests are pedophiles, why don't the English and Wales Bishops promote a rigorous campaign against this monstrous vice within the ranks of the clergy? Why should these vicious men be protected to the detriment of the honor of the priesthood and children's safety? Also, consider the vast fortunes the Church is expending to compensate the victims. Wouldn't it be easier and much more efficient to exclude the priest convicted of pedophilia from the Church? This is my opinion. I would go a little further. I suggest reducing the criminal priest to the lay condition and handing him over to the civil law, so that he would have to pay both the moral and financial consequences for his crimes. It would be a salutary measure to clean the Catholic Church of this plague, and to mete out to the guilty the deserved punition.

    The real guarantee for children's safety is to conserve the Bride of Christ pure, as she always was. What does not attack the root of the problem will not be effective, in my opinion. Today we have the glass confessional, tomorrow there will be glass walls in classrooms, the day after tomorrow we will have to create a glass dome for each priest to live in … to guarantee that these evil men will not attack our children. It seems to me an absurdity. Either the courage to resolve the problem is lacking or there is a progressivist plan to change the image of the priest, showing him as a pedophile.

    While on the British Isles they are going to liberal absurdity, in the opposite sense in Israel they're heading toward a rigorist 40 blows with a rod. In fact, 40 blows with a rod is the punishment every smoker should receive, according to rabbi Ovadia Yossef, spiritual leader of the Israeli "orthodox" Shass party. The makers of cigarettes will be punished by Heaven as well as the employees, who are "accomplices of the angel of death" (Actualité des Religions, July/August 2001).

    Allow me a general comment on this kind of rigorist system. It is not only in Afghanistan that one finds religious leaders who are preaching a bizarre theocratic State, made in the image and likeness of the bizarre religious creed they profess. It is difficult to understand why the Western allied forces that combat Muslim fundamentalism close their eyes to the fanaticism of the Jewish religious parties that are awaiting an opportunity to install a Jewish version of the Taliban government in Israel. Proof of such a tendency exists with Mr. Ariel Sharon, Israeli prime minister, who is closely aligned to the goals of the religious parties. It was he who initiated the present day wave of violence unleashed on the Middle East with a strong insult to the Muslims. Why rail so strongly against the Arab fundamentalists and forget the "orthodox" Jews?

    I close with a comment on the moral plane. We see that in the West we are experiencing an official complaisance with the vice of pedophilia in the clergy that reaches the point of absurdity. In the East, we see a Jewish rigorist moralism that crosses the line of stupidity. Both reflect the chastisement received by those who do not follow the traditional wisdom of the Holy Catholic Church.

Atila Sinke Guimarães

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For past columns by Atila, see Archives of On the BattleLine

December 10-16, 2001
volume 12, no. 160
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