While the new judge on this case will most likely give me a reprieve for jury duty (I have a first amendment conflict of interest), there is a tiny chance he won’t, in which case he’ll have to sentence me for criminal contempt (though I have no contempt whatsoever), or a tiny chance that he will say that I have to wait in the courtroom to see if they get only eleven on the jury with two alternates and so therefore need me to continue through the interrogation of the whys and wherefores and bits and pieces of knowledge of the jury candidates, something I manifestly cannot do and so therefore he will have to sentence me straightaway for criminal contempt (though I have no contempt whatsoever). I simply cannot risk jury tampering for someone who is innocent until proven guilty by giving an impression to the jury pool that I heard the poor fellow’s confession and am risking jail so as not to break the seal of confession, when the whole time I actually never did hear his confession (though I don’t know that if he came to me behind the confessional screen, which I won’t know until all the unrepeatable details come out in court). I can’t let the judge stack the jury on behalf of the defense in the latter case, or let the guy walk without ever getting a trial as he could never get a fair trial after the impression was received, however wrongly, but really necessarily, that I heard the guy’s confession. The questions, you have to know, about the whys and wherefores and prejudices involved in having knowledge of plaintiffs or defendants are intense. When I refuse to answer, the jury must get the idea that I heard his confession as I go off to jail. I wouldn’t want some jerk priest giving that impression to the jury if I were in the hot seat. Would you? This is not about “getting off jury duty.” I don’t want to get off jury duty. That’s just a result of the conflict of interest I have. As Thomas More said: “I am the king’s good servant, but God’s first.” Here’s the deal, the judge might well say that there is zero chance that I heard the guy’s confession since they caught him in the act of the murder or rape or whatever it is. Instead, people also confess things they are sorely tempted to do even years before committing the crime, giving all sorts of unrepeatable details about how the crime will occur, telling me about others involved or who has prior knowledge, telling me about motives of ongoing feuds or whatever, etc. And I can know all this for years beforehand from both future plaintiff and defendant clans and friends, knowing much more than the investigators could ever dig up. Again, it doesn’t matter, Catholic or non-Catholic, it pretty much all comes to the priest. The seal of confession is respected by all, except, perhaps, a court of law, though we will see what happens. Also, don’t forget, I may well know of someone’s innocence, how a crime actually occurred with someone else taking the fall. That happens really a lot. A parent dying of cancer might take the fall for their offspring. A spouse for a spouse. Etc. Jury nullification is really easy. Anyway, I fully expect to get a reprieve… Watch this space. Today’s the feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. If I don’t give you an update in another post by the feast of Our Lady of Sorrows, tomorrow, you can surely rightly assume that I’m in jail.
By the way, a priest in New York just broke the Seal of Confession saying basically he got permission to do this from the defendant in a murder. A friend in the Holy See told me that this case may already be before the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith to decide if the priest is formally declared excommunicate. The thing is, it is not a matter of Father getting permission. The Seal is his to keep regardless of any permission, regardless of any good for himself (such as taking care, he thinks, of his overly tender conscience being wounded by his own silence [not!]). People can give “permission” to reveal a confession for all sorts of reasons (coercion, manipulation, guilt, thinking this is pleasing to the priest so as to get an absolution, etc.). The priest must ignore this. He gave the guy absolution. It’s a confession, indeed sacramental, that must be respected regardless of how it started, and it sounds like an intended confession from the beginning. Why else would anyone go to a priest? Regardless of what the CDF concludes about his malice, I think that the priest should be much more worried about going straight to hell when he dies for having broken the Seal of Confession. If one is guilty of breaking the Seal, one is malicious. It is an attack on the very precious blood of Christ which was poured out for the forgiveness of sin. Father thinks he is a policeman and not a priest. How sad. And to me, that’s totally infuriating. He has damaged the trust of penitents, perhaps stopping untold numbers from going to confession. I could give him absolution if he asked for it, as I’m a Missionary of Mercy, right? But I’ll tell you this, I would absolutely give him the lecture of his life before doing so. He had no right whatsoever to break the Seal of Confession. I can’t risk doing that either, or even give the impression that I am while the whole time I never heard the guy’s confession, ensuring his conviction when otherwise he could have walked as the innocent man he just might be.
Again, just to be clear, I don’t know those involved, whether this was a group or individual, a man or woman (or whatever), what the crime supposedly is or when or where it occurred, etc. I must make a blanket refusal to speak about possible penitents absolutely every time. I don’t know if they ever came to me even behind a screen, even before a crime was committed, looking for arguments not to commit a crime, which may have worked for a while, but then… I just don’t know, do I? No, I don’t. At any rate, there is a conflict of interest for the Constitutional right to free exercise of religion. I must fight for this to be respected. It may just be that the judge wanted to see if I would risk going to jail, given that other priests literally don’t seem to give a damn about breaking the Seal of Confession. When he finds out I am serious, he may just congratulate me for setting a good example for both society and religion, what it means to be a good minister and what it means to be a good citizen. That’s actually what I fully expect, well, 99% sure.
This would be the judge’s opportunity to condemn the Archdiocese of New York for also giving that priest “permission” to break the Seal of Confession. Apparently, the Archdiocese (surely this absolutely must involve ol’ Cardinal Dolan [sigh…]) thinks that a guy confessing a sin and getting sacramental absolution is not a sacramental confession. It seems to me that Jesus will lay on them the penitent’s guilt unless they also repent.
But then again, fewer (arch)dioceses seem to give a damn, literally, about the Sacrament of Confession. See the utterly ridiculous action of the Diocese of Manchester for which I provided some rather incisive commentary some time ago:
For many more articles on this little drama, click the category “Confession” or simply go directly to ariseletusbegoing.com/ and see the articles on the first couple of pages. By the way, say a prayer for that priest who broke the Seal. He will need those prayers regardless of what the CDF says. I just offered Mass for the good of his soul just now, this very day.
By the way: Many people have let me know by phone or email that they prayed to the Lord and are convinced that I have already received a miracle of getting a reprieve. I would like that!