I am starting my take with the big news of the last couple of weeks, The Phone Hacking Scandal. For those who are hearing about this for the first time, they can catch up here. My main concern about the whole drama is the distractions and misplaced outrage that is going on. The Metropolitan Police has an awful lot to answer for, but instead a lot of energy is being expended on attacking the Murdoch’s and there is even an unbelievable suggestion that the Prime minister should resign. Frankly, the Met should be taking a large portion of the blame for this scandal than they are currently. The allegations against the Met are of a serious nature that bother on corruption and the near criminal manner of improperly investigating/prosecuting the original and subsequent revelations. That newspapers made illicit payment to some officers of the Met to obtain confidential information and that the Met did not investigate the original phone hacking allegation properly and then refused to reopen the investigation in the light of new evidence, is truly a scandal. The Met should be properly investigated with relation to the involvement of some of its officers in the whole scandal, appropriate actions taken and a process of reform should commence. Apart from the Met, I hope this case will provide an opportunity for an appropriate ethical and moral code to be instituted, to guide the activities of the press in order to avoid abuses and similar incidents by their members. I do not think that the need to expose corrupt public official and erring celebrities should grant the press with powers, if exercised wrongly, can lead them to act unlawfully and act in manners that are criminal in nature. Laws similar to the Freedom of Information Act should be provided to assist the press in its work of investigative journalism but this must be done in an ethical manner. Proper statutory regulation should be provided for the industry rather than leave it to self regulation which has clearly failed. The work of the Press is too important to be allowed fail but on the other hand go unregulated properly.
The call for the Prime Minister to quit is premature and smacks of political opportunism. Yes, he can be accused of poor judgment and being arrogant for refusing to heed prior warning, but to call for his resignation is an unnecessary distraction and totally ridiculous. I am not a supporter of David Cameron or the Conservative Party but He is not being accused of any form of inappropriate action and besides the alleged phone hacking happened under the watch of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown both of whom failed to address the issue properly or call for an inquiry (at least in the case of Gordon Brown). And lets be honest they all having been cozying up to the Murdoch’s; Margret Thatcher, Tony Blair, Gordon Brown, David Cameron even Ed Milliband. The only politician who has been vindicated by the whole scandal in retrospect is Vince Cable.
The second story that caught my attention is the plan by the Irish government to compel priests to break the “seal of confession” he has with his penitents. This is as a fallout of the Cloyne Report which blamed church authorities including the Vatican for not dealing appropriately with the abuse scandal even as recent as 2008. This is wrong on so many levels and a case of jumping into decision without careful consideration of it consequence or what it ought to achieve.
It is important to note that the sacrament of reconciliation is more of a spiritual exercise that appeals to the conscience of the penitent to come forward to confess his (or her) sins to God (very important point) but in the presence of a priest. In return, the Priest is sworn to Secrecy, a duty that is absolute even if the sin confessed is a criminal one. Under no circumstance (even under the threat of their own death or that of others) is the priest to betray the penitent by divulging to anyone, any sin (even murder) learnt in the process of administering the sacrament of penance. This is very important because it allows the penitent to freely examine his conscience genuinely without fear or pressure and seek true reconciliation with God. This practice should not be interfered with by any secular authority. The priest can always appeal to the penitent conscience to report any confessed criminal offence to the authority as part of his penance, but that is all he can do.
According to an article by David Quinn, this call by the Irish government has no precedence and will at best be counter productive as a ‘sinner’ who knows a priest who hears his confession of a crime is under a duty to report it to the authorities, will ‘out of fear’ avoid the sacrament. David Quinn further writes:
“But our Government is clearly missing something that every other Government can see, which is that at a minimum such a law is very unlikely to lead to a single conviction and at a maximum will be counter-productive and will make society less safe, rather than more safe.
It could equally be argued that a priest who hears a confession of murder must report it to the police. But if the murderer knew that priests were under such a legal requirement, the murderer would not make such a confession unless he was going to the police anyway.
On the other hand, a murderer who wishes to confess a crime to a priest, under the absolute seal of the confessional, is on the road to repentance and attending confession gives a priest the chance to encourage the murderer to turn himself over to the authorities or at the very least to cease his criminal activities.
The logic is the same with child abusers. No child abuser will go to a priest in confession knowing the priest is required to inform the police. But cutting off the avenue of confession to a child abuser makes it less likely that he will talk to someone who can persuade him to take the next step.
Various relationships in society are considered privileged and confidential. One is between a person and his or her confessor. Another is between a doctor and patient, and another is between a lawyer and client.
In creating a legal requirement that priest break the seal of confession under certain circumstances; the Irish State is going down a road very few other states in history have gone down. We need to seriously reconsider this extremely unwise and unprecedented proposal.”
The Irish Government should seek true protection of its children from abuse both within the church and in a vast majority of the cases within the family (and/or society). Interfering with a sacred sacrament will not achieve a single result and only just smacks of political grand standing.