Back in the day, when I was a freshman at a brand new gargantuan public high school, with between one and two thousand kids, the incoming class was broken up into small groups so as to have a special instruction. It amounted to telling us what statutory rape was in my home state. At the time, they said, it amounted to sex with anyone under sixteen years of age, regardless of consent of the other, regardless if one was also under sixteen years of age. “Just don’t do it!” was the advice. “Isn’t that obvious?” thought I. I’m sure all those laws in all states have been radically revised in any number of ways, and not necessarily for the benefit of the other person.
I almost never ever look at the stats page. I used to do that once in a while, but now not so much. I just happened to see this search query on my stats page: “can you confess statutory rape – catholic”. An entire spectrum of motivations are possible for someone to do such a search. Leaving aside motivations of a journalist, et alii, let’s just take two scenarios.
Let’s say a minor girl “confesses” that someone not a minor has taken advantage of her sexually. Kids can get confused and feel guilty in a situation in which they were victims. The priest is to set the youngster straight about this and speak to the possibilities of revealing the crime to proper authorities, making sure the youngster knows that this is a good idea, and that because of the seal of confession, the priest can’t do this himself, not having been told this outside of confession.
As an aside, I would say that a priest is NOT always to encourage that the victim reveals the crime to the proper authorities. For instance, in Islamicist countries, such a girl, claiming rape, would simply be stoned to death by “pious men.” I bet that Islamic State rape lovers will complain that I’m not being nice to them and should be ashamed of myself for not breaking the seal of confession and turning the girl over to them for stoning myself. Really, I won’t do that.
Diversely, let’s say that a middle-aged man confesses that he took advantage of a minor girl in a sexual manner. The priest is to give all the proper advice about turning himself in to the proper authorities and getting help to sort out any psychological idiocies that would open himself up to doing such a crime. But, then, as far as the sin goes, yes, he can confess that under the sacramental seal of the sacrament of confession and, all things being equal regarding true repentance, amendment of life, etc., he may be given absolution for the sin.
As an aside, again, I would say that a priest is NOT always to encourage that the criminal reveals himself to the proper authorities, depending on the local circumstances. Say, for instance, that he is in a jurisdiction where most if not all those on an offender list were put to death sooner than later by other prisoners.
Anyway, it seems that some people go bat-**** crazy (bats go all over themselves as they hang upside down, filling up their caves in this way, really crazy) over such an absolution since they think that it is a kind of permission to those who are not repentant to go ahead and repeat the same behavior. No. Anyone seeking absolution under those circumstances, or any priest giving an absolution in such circumstances, commits a sacrilege and is risking going straight to hell.
I’ve said this before on this blog, but no priest is going to turn anyone over to the police. Priests are not police in the confessional. They have a different role to play. You might well be encouraged strongly to turn yourself in, but your absolution does not depend on your agreeing to that. You’ll just be given a penance that you can do, and then given absolution, again, all things being equal.
And things are not “always equal.” For instance, someone may not be willing to give up their porn addiction which, among other things, has clearly led them to do such crimes, with them saying only that they promise not to go out and do such a crime again. No. That doesn’t cut it. No absolution for that one. The seal of confession cannot be broken even in this case.
Look: one turns away from sin by being turned to the Lord Jesus, who doesn’t tolerate any such impurity of heart, any such lack of agility in the soul. If one has no fear at all of the Lord, who will come to judge the living and the dead and the world by fire, then that person is well and truly risking going straight to hell. It’s better to go to heaven, is it not? Jesus is good and kind and true and just. He will make a radical conversion possible, for it is then His grace gained in His own justice on the cross, not anyone’s stupid determination to use a strength he doesn’t have in the first place.
Conclusion: Yes, return to the Lord for an absolution; return with repentance. You will be shown the goodness and kindness of Jesus Himself. If you have no repentance, you’ll be given quite the reprimand. But that will do you good as well, preparing you for a proper confession of sin and change of life. Praise the Lord.