DAILY CATHOLIC MONDAY September 20, 1999 vol. 10, no. 178
NEWS & VIEWS
CANADIAN BISHOPS PROTEST AGAINST INVASION OF PRIVACY
OTTAWA, SEP 17, 1999 (ZENIT).- In a recent letter labeled "urgent" to the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Lloyd Axworthy, the Catholic Conference of Canadian Bishops expressed their "grave concern" for the government's proposal to the preparatory commission of the International Criminal Court, to eliminate the protection of privacy from the secret of confession.
The letter, signed by Father Emilius Goulet, Secretary General of the Bishops' Conference, refers to "disquieting reports ... that the Canadian representative ... has proposed that the new international court not recognize the centuries-old legal tradition that respects the sacred confidentiality of matters shared between a penitent and priest during the confession of sins."
While acknowledging that the proposal has received very little international support, the bishops make it clear that they are "disturbed that the Government of Canada would even propose such an undertaking."
"The strict confidentiality of matters shared between a priest and penitent," the text continues, "not only concerns the more than one billion Catholic and Orthodox Christians in the world who consider the confession of sins to be a sacrament, but members of all religions, given that the recognition of such confidentiality has been legitimately extended over time to include private religious counseling in all religious faiths."
"Furthermore, the inevitable effects of the Canadian proposal would have
meant interference with the right to personal privacy as well as erosion of
freedom of conscience and religion. As you will recall, in a letter dated
August 5, 1999, to the President of the Canadian Conference of Catholic
Bishops, you had rightly stated that religious freedom is a fragile right
in many areas of the world. Such freedom would certainly not have been
strengthened internationally by this recent Canadian proposal," the
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