Archbishop Phillip Aspinall: Priests ‘Can Report Child Abuse’

The spiritual leader of Australia’s 3.5 million Anglicans, Phillip Aspinall, believes that priests may be able to report child abuse revealed during the rite of confession without breaking the seal of the confessional, putting him at odds with Catholics.   

The Australian reports:

The Anglican Primate says the sanctity of the confessional should be examined by the royal commission into child sexual abuse called this week by Julia Gillard, which he regards as being a decade overdue.

Dr Aspinall’s predecessor as Archbishop of Brisbane, Peter Hollingworth – who lost his job as governor-general after a scandal erupted over his handling of sex-abuse cases in the diocese – also backed the inquiry.

Dr Hollingworth warned yesterday that the abuse of children was “more widespread than previously thought”, and welcomed the royal commission as an important national initiative and a means to help victims.

Dr Aspinall told The Weekend Australian that pastoral guidelines for Anglican priests already stipulated that anyone who admitted sexually abusing a child during confession would not receive forgiveness unless they agreed to go to the police.

If the penitent refused, the confession was incomplete and, arguably, the seal of the confessional would not apply.

Only specified, senior priests could hear such confessions in the  Anglican Church, Dr Aspinall said. “These priests are specially trained  to require the penitent to report the matter to the police and even go  with them to support them while they do that,” he said.

“If they don’t do that, forgiveness will not be granted to them.”

Dr Aspinall is credited with cleaning house after taking over as  Archbishop of Brisbane in 2002 in the teeth of allegations that the  diocese had failed to deal properly with sex abuse cases in the 1990s  under Dr Hollingworth’s leadership.

Dr Aspinall, who was later elected Primate, said the announcement of a  national royal commission into child abuse came 10 years after he first  asked John Howard to call such an inquiry.

“Of the nearly 3.6 million Australians who call themselves Anglican,  statistically one in four women and one in eight men are victims of  abuse, so it is something that affects our church on many levels,” Dr  Aspinall said in a statement yesterday.

His support for the royal commission to review confessional sanctity  is in sharp contrast to the position of Australia’s most senior  Catholic, George Pell, who this week declared that the confessional was  “inviolable”, even for murder.

The Catholic Archbishop of Sydney said he would not hear the  confession of a pedophile priest if he had prior notice of it, but, were  it made, the seal of the confessional would remain.

In response, NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell, a Catholic, said he  struggled to understand how such information could not be reported to  police, while federal Employment and Workplace Relations Minister Bill  Shorten called for the royal commission to address priestly privilege.  Interviewed by The Weekend Australian, Dr Aspinall said mandatory  reporting of child sex abuse was policy in the Anglican Church.

He said the rite of confession was less frequently practised by  Anglicans, and was different from what took place in the Catholic  Church.

Senior priests had told him they hadn’t heard a confession for years, let alone one involving child sex abuse.

But he acknowledged that opinion was divided among Anglicans on what the confessional seal covered.

“Some people would say that anything said in a formal confession remains secret and sacrosanct,” Dr Aspinall said.

“Others would say, no, if the penitent has not followed through and  taken the appropriate action and received forgiveness, then the  confession is incomplete and the seal of confession does not apply.

“In that instance the person either reports the matter to the police themselves or the priest is free to do so.”

Asked for his personal view, Dr Aspinall said: “My view is that every  instance of child sexual abuse should be reported to the police.”

In nearly 25 years as a priest, he had never been put in the predicament of hearing the confession of a child abuser.

“I don’t think I ever will, because the reality is child sex abusers  hide what they do; they don’t come forward to reveal it,” Dr Aspinall  said.

Pressed on what he would do if someone confessed such a crime to him  and refused to have it reported to police, he admitted it would pose “a  real dilemma of conscience”.

“My heartfelt conviction is that all these matters should be reported to the police,” he said.

“If I found myself in a position of having to break canon law to do  it, I’m not sure what I would do. But my conscience, I think, would move  me to find a way for … proper action to be taken.”

While Cardinal Pell attacked sections of the media for exaggerating  the incidence of sex abuse by Catholic priests and for vilifying the  church, Dr Aspinall said reporting of the issue had mainly been  reasonable.

He praised the courage of victims in coming forward.

Dr Aspinall conceded that trust in the church had been affected.

“I think people are more shocked when it’s a clergy person or a  church worker who engaged in this behaviour because they have very high  expectations of people in the church,” he said.

“And I think that is right and proper.”



56 thoughts on “Archbishop Phillip Aspinall: Priests ‘Can Report Child Abuse’

  1. I think the key is found in these comments: “He said the rite of confession was less frequently practised by Anglicans, and was different from what took place in the Catholic Church. Senior priests had told him they hadn’t heard a confession for years, let alone one involving child sex abuse. But he acknowledged that opinion was divided among Anglicans on what the confessional seal covered.”

    The use of auricular confession to a priest/pastor by Anglicans and Lutherans has dwindled to insignificance. It is hard to make a strong case that it is even “dogmatic” for Anglicans (historically in the 1552/1662 & 1928 BCPs being a voluntary rubric in the Visitation of the Sick: “Then shall the sick person be moved to make a special confession of his sins, if he feel his conscience troubled with any matter; after which confession…” (1928)). And while it is dogma for Lutherans (see Augsburg Confession), even Luther realized that making it voluntary and optional would leave few to avail themselves of it. It is dwindling for both EOs and RCs, too, but given their long histories and dogma, it would be very hard to eliminate officially.

    1. If people don’t go to confession anymore, or if priests no longer hear confessions, we must live in a Golden Age, when no one sins and finds no use for penance and absolution.

      We must’ve become Übermenschen somehow.

    2. Indeed the Roman Catholic position of the priest and priesthood being some kind of inviolable and indestructible place in confession is simply a juridical and legal judaistic judgment. And biblically I just don’t see it! I can see something of the pastor as expressing God’s forgiveness & mercy in light of the Gospel message/kerygma itself, but the presbyter himself does not sacramentally effect the forgiveness of God. Only Christ and the Gospel itself can effect that! It is no wonder that both modern and now postmodern man and culture finds little reality in this idea of sacrament.

      *See the piece I shared about Calvin here on this subject by Rich Lusk.

      1. Btw, as I have expressed as an Anglican priest & presbyter, especially doing hospital chaplain work, I actually quite often get people that want to ask for some kind of confession, fallenaway-Catholics.. away from the Church for years, or just people or lax Christians that think they need to make confession. I try to place the Roman Catholic chaplain before the Catholics, but always I just share the reality of the Gospel of Christ! And I leave it up to the conscience of the person!

      2. The Catholic Priest is ordained, and has with him the Holy Spirit, so the priest is consecrated for the purpose of delivering God’s grace. The apostles were all men, and received the Holy Spirit during Pentecost. The 12 Apostles’ successors were men, and laid their hands on them (See Acts 8:14-19) hence the bishops are all men, hence the priests are all men. Priests are the representatives of the bishops, after all, since the diaconate, the purpose of which was to serve the Bishop, is not equivalent to the sacerdotal priesthood.

        Forgiveness by the priest himself, is not the same as when it is invoked in the ritual context of the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

        I am not surprised when protestants don’t believe Jesus is in the Sacraments. That is why they are not really “Churches” but are instead “Communities” that believe in God. They don’t believe Jesus is present in the sacrifice offered by the priest in the form of bread and wine; they limit what God can do only on the basis of what book (Compiled by Catholics, by the way, claimed to be “corrected” by Protestants 1000 years later; by that same claim of “correction”, Islam and Mormonism are comparable.) states. It effectively makes atheism the inevitable conclusion for when a text full of contradiction (because the Bible is a series of divinely inspired books, with different earthly authors) is interpreted by an individual who is then free to reject or accept either literal or metaphorical or whatever manner the book is interpreted.

        I recommend for you to read Pope Leo XIII’s Providentissimus Deus, which addresses the proper interpretation of the Bible, in response to Modernist “higher criticism” which was initially a PROTESTANT phenomenon that spread like a cancer to the Church at the turn of the 20th century.

      3. Also: It’s a good thing I have yet to hear anyone recommend following the “Jesus Seminar.”

        headed by a former Catholic priest, too, John Dominic Crossan.

        What is it with clergy and heresy? Always Bishops and Priests and Monks!

      4. @Ioannes: I can appreciate your zeal, I really can.. remember I too was raised Irish Roman Catholic in the 50’s, and I am myself a biblical and theological conservative (actually more so than most Roman Catholic priests today, and my theological education was also conservatiive, for the most part) but I am no longer convinced of the old school tradtional lines of Roman Catholicism! Indeed I have found the Biblical and conservative place of the Reformation and the top-tier Reformers of/from the 16th century, and now the continued history of the Reformed theology (in certain Evangelical places & churches). What can we say? One of us is just certainly wrong! But I have traversed a bit more ground than you have, both church history, theology, and just life experience. We must learn to accept a persons path and conscience, especially when it has the Name of Christ, before it! WE both will get to stand before Christ and give our account! I hope someday you can come to a better understanding of what is the essence of the Protestant Reformation and the Reformed doctrine and theology. And of course here I speak of the best aspect here! Note John Calvin believed it to be the doctrine of the Church Catholic! Btw, have you ever read “anything” by Calvin? I hope you do someday! 🙂

      5. It’s problematic when we accept a persons path and conscience and there is no singular living authority on earth to pronounce and determine the morality of such a path or such a conscience- even the Bible can be subjectively interpreted so to accept homosexuality as a norm, that God is not a man and is a woman, or that Christ and St. John are lovers, that Paul invented Christianity, or that the role of priests, sacraments, or even Jesus are all fictional, and even interpretations wherein the God of the Old Testament is Evil, and the God of the New Testament is Good; these things are, unsurprisingly, commonly held misconceptions and even blatant insistence that those are truly what we Christians believe. Still not convinced? Count how many times protestants believe that Catholics worship Mary, or the Saints, or that we crucify Christ again, or count how many atheists believe that we think God is a bearded white man who lives in the sky and we’re all idiots for believing that.

        That is the problem when there is questioning of authority. Back in the day, we call those people “heretics”, nowadays, we just let them be, and their correctness would only be determined by how popular the idea is with the people. If we look at the world we live in now, it’s more and more attractive to become a godless hedonist, or a Muslim. Are we supposed to accept those persons’ path and conscience? I would say not, because Atheism and Islam are wrong, among many other “paths.”

        If you care about respecting a person’s path and conscience, then you have to accept that my path rejects a wide and easy road where all roads are valid and all lead to God. My path rejects many, that is why many hate it and I’m prepared to be hated for walking that path.

        So this protestant request to accept a person’s path and conscience is at least riddled with exceptions. “Oh, except Unitarians, we can’t accept their path, there’s a Triune God, Scripture says.” “Oh, except those Anabaptists, they’re Donatists rebaptizers, Augustine says.” “Except Catholics, because they’re wrong, Luther says.” and so forth….

        Or else, without the exceptions, it is the wide and easy road. It sounds like it’s easy to get into heaven in such a manner, but it doesn’t sound like Jesus Christ.


        I don’t doubt that you’ve learned what you’ve learned in your life and in your studies. But those are human achievements. How have they changed anything? Did Christendom get any closer to unity, (AS CHRIST WANTED) by what you’ve achieved in your lifetime?

      6. Also: a person walking a wrong path for most of his life still walks a wrong path regardless.

        Error and heresy doesn’t care how old and learned you are. Even the best among us can err and fall.

      7. @Ioannes: You must learn to separate the conservative and hopefully regenerate or theological-biblical Christianity, both in the Catholic Church and in the Protestant Church! Again theologically, Luther, as Calvin, Zwingli and then Bullinger etc., as Beza.. simply hammered Roman Catholicism!

        Note here even the Catholic Desiderius Erasmus, who some see as a Catholic, Protestant, and humanist all rolled into one; who never left the R. Catholic Church. He and Luther battled each other theologically over the years! This is well worth the read! But in some real sense, this was an in-house debate, i.e. Reform!

  2. There is a stark difference between the statement of Cardinal Pell and that of the Anglican Archbishop. This is unsurprising. This discussion is about very serious moral issues – the need to deal with child abusers contrasted with the inviolability of the confessional.

    The reason why there is such a stark difference between the approaches of the two prelates is explained by Dr Edward Norman, the former Canon Chancellor of York Minster, an emeritus Fellow of Peterhouse, Cambridge, who was recently received into the Catholic Church, in a coincidentally relevant article on the current news page of the OLW Ordinariate.

    Dr Norman writes:-

    “Now the main difference between Catholic Christianity and Anglicanism is the nature of the Doctrine of the Church itself. It is not that Catholicism has one understanding and Anglicanism another; it is that Catholicism has such a doctrine and a very clear one and that Anglicanism does not really have one at all. Far too much was left unattended at the Reformation, when English Christianity was detached from the centre of unity and from the Magisterium of the universal Church, leaving the Church in England without a means of determining its own doctrines. No one could have foreseen at the time that the split with Rome was to prove permanent. And so for the next three and a half centuries doctrine in the Church of England was determined by the Judicial Committee of the Privy Council.

    Some of the most unsuitable aspects of this state of affairs have been modified, yet the essential position has remained; Anglicanism has no basis for its authority which links it to a universal body. The consequent effect has been that every section of it and, in these days of spiritual individualisation, every person in it feels free to make up faith for themselves and deem the result to be “Christianity”. How can the “Church” be the body of Christ in the world when its confession varies from place to place and person to person, not only in minor but in the most essential teachings about faith and morals? At the centre of Anglicanism is a great void…

    Moral issues are determined, where they are determined at all, on the basis of data furnished by media presentation or the findings of surveys of opinion.

    Doctrinal questions do not in reality get much airing, largely because there is so little common ground for precise formulations or any stomach for debating them – and, anyway, there is no authority for determining the basis of authority, short, one supposes, of legislation in Parliament.

    As for Christian morality, there is a procession of tawdry public controversies. With every compromise the truths of which the Church of England purports to be the guardian mean less and less.”

    Of course, the different provinces of the Anglican Communion do not even have the ultimate backstop of the authority of the UK Parliament which can legislate for the Church of England – but not for the other provinces of the Anglican Communion.

    So Cardinal Pell speaks with the teaching authority of the Universal Church, Archbishop Aspinall offers tentative opinions which question the sacramental nature of confession and seek to chip away at the obligation on the priest in the perceived interest of the state. So it would seem that the Erastian subservience of Anglicanism to the state continues even post political independance.

    1. God Bless Dr. Norman!

      Anglicanism is a tool of the godless State! It is no better than the Chinese Patriotic Catholic Association!

      Priests, swear no oaths of loyalty to the State! Fear not the Guillotine! Resist the State to its face!

    2. Those interested in Anglican “doctrine” and the “Church” should read the 1920s CofE official report on same. They had serious trouble fully agreeing on a lot even then. And looking at the CofE in the 1600, 1700, & 1800s we see a church riven by serious disagreement: Laud vs Puritans, Non-jurors, rise of Wesley in reaction to decay, Oxford Movement, etc.

      I suspect the issue gets back to the captivity of the CofE to Crown and Parliament. CofE has always essentially been a ward to and servant of the State. That was the Devil’s bargain Cranmer et al made with Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. To be free of Rome they became enslaved to the State. In the early 20th century, CofE couldn’t even get its prayer book changed (e.g., Parliamentary debacle in late 1920s when Parliament voted down the proposed changes). So officially it is 1662 in 2012, yet do very few Anglican clergy even follow the 1662? No one expects them to but no one can explain any clear authority for all the illicit liturgical activity.

      1. @Michael: Indeed as one can see there is simply no real dialogue often with many traditional Roman Catholics, who simply forget the secular and internal/instiutional problems of their own house, and even the sins of the Papacy, both historical and otherwise! And as the Reformation and Reformed church/churches know the historical Church is not exempt from Sin! In fact the true Church and Body of Christ is always in the centre of the battle… ‘the World, the Flesh and the Devil’! As I have said so many times here, the Church of Christ is a Pilgrim Church & Body on earth, and here even John Paul II could write,”The mystery of the Church”, its “invisible dimension”, is “larger than the structure and organization of the church,” which are “at the service of the mystery.” This statement after Vatican II, simply acknowledges in reality the Reformed position of the Ecclesia semper refomada est! And biblically and theologically this most certainly cannot be escaped!

        And btw, those Anglicans like myself, both the presbyters and the so-called layman, who really share in the priesthood of all believers, love the 1662 Book of Common Prayer (the 350th celebration, this year!). It is still the basic tool and source of much ecclesiastic and liturgical use and blessing, to evangelical Anglicans, and even other Christians who use it! It is here I miss the likes of the man and ministry of the Anglican, the Rev. Peter Toon! (RIP)

        Btw, what is so hard about understanding the so-called “militant” nature of the Church visible, catholic and reformed? This is the best of the Irish Articles 1615, and the Anglican Thirty-Nine Articles! Sometimes, and really now quite often these are simply the hammer blows towards traditional “Catholicism”! And so rather than seek to biblically and theologically dialogue here, traditional Roman Catholics and too Anglo-Catholics just go ad hoc, and don’t really engage. For in reality behind these creedal efforts stand the essence of Holy Scripture! This is at least the belief of Evangelical and Reformed Anglicanism! The numbers NOW, might be small, but truth, especially in a day of declension is always the issue! As our Lord said, “in spirit and truth”!

        The Peace of Christ! 🙂

      2. Fr Robert, Don’t get me wrong, I find the 1662 (CofE) and 1928 (ECUSA) BCPs most interesting and valuable. Oddly, few, if any, appear to fully worship according to them? I’d love to find an Anglican Church in USA that stayed 100% to 1928 BCP (in all of its rubrics, like singing the Gloria at the end of liturgy, no introits or graduals, using the various mandated exhortations, etc.) and worship with them for a while to get a feel for how Anglican worship was say before the Oxford Movement.

        I think it sad that in so much of the magesterial reformation the Reformers tied their churches to the State. The CofE is the classic example, but the same applies for establishment Scandanavia and how the Prussian/German state ends up controlling the Evangelical/Lutheran Church.

        Guess I’d have to say I prefer both Wesley’s revised Articles of Religion and the Augsburg Confession over the Irish Articles. I can’t say I truly appreciate any fully Reformed Creed or Confession as I’m more Arminian! 🙂

        Any fully living Christian Church must be free to hear and respond to the Spirit without the interference of the State. Any Christian Church that is a creature of the State as regards its worship and dogma, cannot be and is not a fully Christian Church. Render unto Caesar; render unto God…The Church is from God, not Caesar.

      3. @Michael: Yes, I can see and somewhat respect what you are saying, but I cannot see an Anglicanism (19th century to the very early 20th) outside of a Queen Victoria to some degree, with too the PM of a Disraeli! The historical church – all, has wedded itself to the culture of its time, now we can certainly see Postmodernity! And btw modernism and postmodernism are really ‘father & son’! My point is that the State, especially the Victorian, as the American States and Constitution were God’s providence in a certain Judeo-Christian ethic at least. But indeed those days are gone now! So all of this talk is sort of mute now, especially from our Catholic friends!

        Btw, can we not see in St. Paul’s time (certainly HIS theology), a Jewish Hellenism, and the Greco-Roman? (Gal. 4: 4-7) Indeed this will always be the essence of the backdrop of the Apostolic Church! And in the Book or Letter/Treatise of Hebrews we can surely see some Plato or Platonic, the idealistic and visionary!

      4. Btw Michael: I know that your not interested in Calvin per se, but he really does have a sort of “An Activist Christology”, to quote Stephen Edmondson’s book: Calvin’s Christology (page, 70). See too perhaps Ford Lewis Battles grand book: Interpreting John Calvin (pages 47-62, in the chapter, ‘Calvin’s Humanistic Education’. The whole point is Christ’s own “Christological” history! God In Christ, has effected and enacted our Salvation History, and we by His mercy & grace wholly respond! And indeed this is a Covenant History, again only ‘In Christ’, as St. Paul teaches. Note here too, Geerhardus Vos’s book here: The Pauline Eschatology…noting his ideas of Paul’s in Justification & Sanctification, but always from the “eschatological” for Vos!

      5. Pure and undiluted Erastianism:

        In a strongly worded speech on Wednesday, Williams warned that the failure
        of the vote in the house of laity on Tuesday had made the church’s
        governing body appear “wilfully blind” to the priorities of secular

        “We have – to put it very bluntly – a lot of explaining to do,” he said.
        “Whatever the motivations for voting yesterday … the fact remains that a
        great deal of this discussion is not intelligible to our wider society.
        Worse than that, it seems as if we are wilfully blind to some of the trends
        and priorities of that wider society.”

        In response to which, see this spot-on piece by Peter Mullen:

      1. @irishanglican: I think your 9 posts so far on thiis thread will have made your position tolerably clear to whomever has the inclination to wade through them. I don’t.

      2. @Mourad: And so why does that not surprise me! I just bet you have never read a line of Erasmus? And did you did not know that Erasmus is said to have influenced King Henry VIII? Yes, he was a “polymath”! Also, he became an Augustinian canon, and was later ordained. But lived for over 40 years in many places, including Oxford, later of course he died in Basel.

      3. @Irishanglican

        What is the point about quoting Erasmus here? I really do not get it… By the way: there are many good reasons to admire him and his scholarship but he should not be idolized, especially by those who claim the primacy of “Bible & Theology” over everything else. He was not a theologian (the “theologasters” as he used to call them), moreover he was unable to read Hebrew and – when needed – he did not mind to doctor the textual tradition of the NT.

      4. As Alexander Pope put it:-

        A little learning is a dangerous thing;
        drink deep, or taste not the Pierian spring:
        there shallow draughts intoxicate the brain,
        and drinking largely sobers us again.

        One might say that ever since you abandoned the good Benedictine Fathers and left the Church, you’be been sipping at just about every stream.

        Unfortunately, most of them have been polluted by one form of heresy or another.

      5. Addenda: I do not intend to deny the historical importance of Erasmus nor the value of his enormous scholarship, just to point out that both aspects have to be put in the right context. By a scholarly point of view, moreover, Erasmus is a real problematic figure, at least for two main reasons. First, the ambiguity of much of his statements. Second, the fact that he has been seen as the spokesman of several positions (as you mentioned: Catholic, “Reforming” Humanist and broadly Protestant) and, since the 16th century, scholars of different views have tried to adopt him as their model and “hero”. He was indeed a fascinating character and a true, troubled, Christian, however he was a polemist and a philologist rather than a systematic theologian. His works has be studied historically and keeping in mind to whom he was addressing his writings (what counted especially letters and philological treatises).

      6. @Mourad: It does appear that your personal hypocrisy seems to know no bounds! How dare YOU make personal judgment on me! But, your anti-protestant bias appears well beyond theological disagreement, I have heard the way you talk about Jews and Israel, also. So this is really no surprise! Sadly our generation had/has much of this, yeah I well remember the Catholic bias and even hatred at times against the Jewish people in Ireland, among many Catholics. Very sad! Funny, but it never really affected me so much, as I had Jewish friends as a lad, and then too in the military. But in my Irish family though we were generally Catholic, we were we open minded toward others, religious or not. And I thank God that my priest was an open and very generous man (even for the time!), and as I have said, he came from an Augustinian order. So very providential for me! I can well remember his love for the Jewish people, having said they were the “people” of our Lord! So shame on you sir!

        Finally, what do you know of “heresy”? At least biblically and theologically, since you constanly speak with such great ignorance!

      7. @Irishanglican

        So if people comment on Israel without praising the policy of its government are not good Christians? I posted already on the topic but why do not you show some Christian sympathy to our Palestinian Christian Brothers those rights are daily denied by Israeli authorities? Do they deserve less since they do not live in Egypt, Lebanon, Syria or Iraq? How comes so?

        There are several antisemites among Catholics, true, but there are many among other Christians as well as among non-Christians. What is the point of generalise? Is it worth? Should we really start mentioning the fact that Nazi Germany was populated by more Protestants than Catholics? Or that Soviet Union had more Orthodox Christians? Or that Anglican GB denied the right of Jews to settle in Israel under the Mandatory Power while they were persecuted in Europe?

        And speaking of Anglicans in GB: should we talk of the fact that Catholics were discriminated there for longer than Jews?

        Is it really worth to use history? It all sounds rather silly (and I am an historian).

        Finally, I have to say that Mourad (yes, I do admire very much him for the balance of his statements as well as for his legal and non-legal knowledge) might have made a rather arsh comment using the quotation from Pope but he has a point: you are probably very well-read but your comments are often general, vague and propagandist. Moreover you seem much more interested in claims rather than in understanding somebody else’s positions. Why can not you stop trying to convert us and try instead to understand Catholic positions? Yes, sometimes it means also to deal with Canon Law. Too bad? Maybe but I do not see what’s the point of seeing that less authoritative than the Tetrapolitana or the Consensus Tigurinus. In both cases such documents have (or claim to have) their reason to be in the Scriptures. Canon Law is not easy and Mourad makes huge efforts to make it intelligible for those, on here, who are not used to it. I think we should all appreciate it very much.

      8. You bet mate, YOU crossed the line with me, and I have no respect for such bigotry! In fact I hate such prejudice! Were all sinners, but blatant disrespect has no place in human courtesy, much less the name of Christ and Christian!

      9. Fr Robert, Mourad, & Federico: One thing I find a bit disconcerting when discoursing with RCs is that they don’t rely on and reference their primary source document(s). The vast majority of the time, that should mean the Catechism of the [Roman] Catholic Church (CCC). And where that might not cover something (and I’d be hard pressed to think of the issue), then Ecumenical Councils, papal bulls/encyclicals, and the thoughts of the more prominent theologians (esp. Augustine & Aquinas) should pretty much cover the rest. So the RC can readily rely on the tradition of his Church to answer nearly any question or discuss any issue.

        So for the seal of the confessional, an RC must reference CCC at Arts. 1467 & 2490. Given the crystal clear language of the catechism, that is pretty much the end of the discussion for an RC.

        As regards restitution, at the very least CCC at Arts. 1459-1460, 2412, and 2487 must be referenced.

        As for the Jews and Israel, the number of CCC citations is tremendous. Major ones include 62-64, 218-219, 711, 759-762, and 839-840. Any RC who talks about Israel, the Jews, or Judaism in language that goes against the CCC is not congruent with his Church.

        That is a key beauty of this magnificent document is how extensive and comprehensive it is, how useable by all, and how it should be the key resource for RCs. An RC who doesn’t fully agree with and accept the expressed words of the CCC should know he has a potentially serious issue with his Church. I just wish more of my RC friends and acquaintances would read and use their own documents.

      10. @Federico Z: We all come from some place, I sure admit mine, and my “presuppositions” biblical and evangelical, and Reformed Anglican! And yes I am pro-Israel (a “Biblical” Zionist), having both lived and taught there in the mid and late 90s. And as most know here I was a RMC, Royal Marine Commando, and retired a Captain from the Reserves, and I say this for I fought in Gulf War 1. This war was a great wake-up call for me, as concerns the region, Israel, Islam, and of course biblically, theologically, and prophetically as a Christian. So I am not a “high tower” person here, but a very real Anglican priest/presbyter, and simply pastor!

        Btw if your a “historian”, then chew on this (link)! And I don’t like “lawyers”, especially canon-law, types! 😉

      11. Fr Robert, I believe nearly all of what you write about Erasmus, you should also write for Melanchthon. EOs, Protestants, and RCs would do well to study these sadly neglected great humanists who worked hard to bring reason, order, a reformed catholic faith, and a return to unity to a divided Western Christendom. Both are often denigrated for their rather peaceful approaches. (And here I think also about Spiner’s comment along the lines of “Better a good RC than a bad Lutheran.” and Wesley’s letter to a RC.)

      12. @Michael: Thanks, I actually like Erasmus, his so-called “humanist” view, is more “existential” in the modern sense. Note the effect too that the Humanism of the time had on Calvin, Luther, and yes, Philip Melanchton. Indeed this “Humanism” had such a great effect on the Reformation. I have read the Schmalkald Articles of Luther, and one should note the affect that Melanchton had on Luther’s Schmalkald.

        Btw, I have most of John Wesley’s corpus, and have read that Letter to the RC. And I really appreciate your cool mindedness here on this blog, you have a rare balance, thanks. And thanks for your own theological eclecticism! 🙂

      13. Fr Robert, Even though I’m EO, I’ll take Melanchthon “the humanist” and “the theologian” (esp. systematic theology) over Erasmus. And both fought with Luther! Sadly, Lutherans threw Melanchthon under the bus and all but rejected (and still reject?) him. If you haven’t studied his life, you should. Child prodigy! Polymath! Whose erudition was greatly desired by the best and brightest, but who couldn’t travel around Europe as he wanted to due to the politicial situation and the need of his allies for his presence. And he ended up in disfavor for trying to be peaceable with his enemies and attempting, as best he could, to meet them on mutually agreeable grounds. 🙂

      14. Oh amen, Michael! I agree, I only put forth Erasmus as the great scholar and Christian humanist he was and of course the humanist in the service of Reformation, somewhat…but Philip Melanchthon also must share this too! But Melanchthon was also Luther’s main-man (arguments and all) also! I have the classic book by James William Richard, of Philip Melanchthon, The Protestant Preceptor of Germany. So I like the man and Christian very much! He was too, real friends with John Calvin btw. And “Lutherans” only loose without Melanchthon!

        *Perhaps some our Catholic brethren might discover the great depth of the real “Catholic” and “Orthodox” Christian humanity, seen in all of God’s men and women!

      15. @Michael: One of the most odious things that constantly appears on this blog, is the idea that generally all Protestants are in apostasy, and that if one has left the RCC, then they are apostate. And this simply does not follow Vatican II itself! And even Ratzinger/Benedict has changed his language on Martin Luther! We can see for example that the early friendship of both Erasmus and Luther centered around their belief in the supreme authority of Holy Scripture. And their great debates really were central here. It was Erasmus who attacked Luther in his disagreement of Luther’s obvious Augustinian doctrine of election and predestination. But once the issue was under sway, it was Luther who pressed the biblical logic of man’s depth and slavery to Sin! Note, here simply is the Federal Headship of Adam, and the doctrine of imputation, which is drawn from Augustine. I know, the Orthodox don’t agree with this, but tis is simply the doctrine of the Reformation and the Reformed. Note even some of the older Roman Catholic believed this to degree, as Aquinas, etc., who even called himself an Augustinian.

      16. @Michael: If you have not read John Wesley’s biblical teaching or long essay on the doctrine of Sin, from his Collected Writings (modern), you would enjoy it I believe. One of the most profound things we has written!

      17. Fr. Robert, This week’s issue of The Economist (London), 11/17/12 issue, has a short book review of Roger Scruton’s new book, Our Church: A Personal History of the Church of England (Atlantic/UK). To be published in USA, Feb. 2013. I’ve long enjoyed his writings in The American Spectator. This sentence made me think of you: “Nevertheless, says Mr. Scruton, Wesley and Newman were ‘the two greatest apostles of Christ that the [CofE] had produced, and it could contain neither of them.”

      18. Interesting, John Henry Newman was one of my favorite pastoral theolog’s years back. I still have his book of Anglican sermons (by Ignatius Press), “Parochial and Plain Sermons”. And several bio’s. I even have an older 1901 book by the great Reformed pastor, Alexander Whyte: Newman an Appreciation. They became good friends, even though they had much different theology. And I have a 1960 book (Geoffrey Chapman, London), by a Roman Catholic, Newman The Theologian, The Nature of Belief and Doctrine as Exemplified in His Life and Works, by J.-H. Walgrave, O.P. which was first in French (1957). Walgrave was a Belgiun. This is a great book, theologically! I got it of course in a London bookshop, back in the early 80’s as I remember.

        But yes, in my opinion a true “theologian” is a gift to the whole church! As were both Wesley and Newman. Btw, what do you think of Karl Barth? I have his CD, and as I have said before one of my great personal achievements was reading it thru once in my life! It of course took me well over a serious year of reading! That was back some, when I could read day and night! And sleep in-between. lol Btw, two great books on Barth, are Karl Barth, His life from letters and autobiographical texts, by Eberhard Busch. And too, Karl Barth (Second Edition), by John Webster. Also, Busch’s book: The Great Passion, An Introduction to Karl Barth’s Theology, just might be the very best Barth theological intro! (I really liked it!) For the real brave at heart, there is of course Bruce McCormack’s book: Karl Barth’s Critically Realistic Dialectical Theology, etc. That is a much tougher read, at 499 pages! To my mind Barth is a great modern Church Father! He makes one think, even when understanding him is a great press! And then there is one of his great students (who I heard speak once), T.F. “Tom” Torrance. Torrance’s book: The Trinitarian Faith, The Evangelical Theology of the Ancient Catholic Church. This book is very Orthodox friendly as to the Trinity of God, and is simply a classic to the whole Church of God!

      19. Fr. Robert, No, not really a Barth fan. Like the Anglican divines said of our liturgy, I find him a bit too “impressive and oppressive”. Too Reformed for me. But that should be too surprising as I’m a Cassian/Faustian/Melancthtonian/Molinian/Arminian/Non-juror/Weslyan. Though I do find it most fascinating that this modern Reformed prophet seems to have found his real home amongst later 20th Century RCs. Two of my favorite “experimental” or “modernist” theologians, with whom I may not agree but who definiately make me think deeply about faith issues, are Wolfhart Pannenberg and Clark Pinnock. (I can navel gaze all day on Open Theism meets Molina’s middle knowledge.) [As for more “real ” or “practical” theology, I sometimes prefer great literature. I love Graham Greene’s works. From 2009-2011 I read everything he wrote that is still in print, including all of his novels, short stories, and collected articles/letters/essays, plus about 3,500 pages of biography. I’ve got my nominally RC girlfriend reading The Power & The Glory. What a powerful novel of faith and redemption! Had my teenage daughter read Brighton Rock. Have to get my son in Navy in Sicily to read The Heart of the Matter. But I also have devoured Orwell, Burgess, & K. Amis, and W.S. Burroughs.]

      20. @Michael: Again interesting, yes our presuppositions do really affect us, mentally. Your right about Barth and Catholicism, though certainly I have not seen any R. Catholics or Ordinariate people here that have a clue to that. And of course Barth and Von. Balthasar were certain friends, and Von. B. wrote no doubt one of the best books on Barth’s Theology! (The Theology of Karl Barth, Exposition and Interpretation, Ignatius Press, 1992). This is really a must read, and Von B’s chapter (6) in his/this book: Praedestination Gemina, is simply one of the best in understanding Barth’s doctrine of Election! This is no doubt one of great affect for some Roman Catholics who are closer to Augustine somewhat.

        I have read my share of Clark Pinnock, who of course moved from Calvinism to his own positions later of Open Theism, etc. in his theological life.

        Myself, I tend more to English Lit. and Romantic Poetry, I have been a fan of several poets here. No doubt one of my favorites is William Cowper, who with John Newton helped write the Olney Hymns. Yeah my Evangelical love affair is with this Hymnology, the Wesley brothers, obviously Charles, with too Issac Watts, etc. Yes, always an evangelical “biblicism”: the Gospel in Hymns! Here are the German Hymns, Bohemian-German Hymns. Luther, Paul Gerhardt, the Moravians (Count Zinzendorf)..Pietist-Moravian Hymnody. And just before Joachim Neander, and yes finally Gerhard Tersteegen. Then we get to the great Victorian era, and the Evangelical and Low Church Hymns, “The Chapham Sect”, the great Evangelical philanthropists, Wllliam Wiberforce, etc. The great Non-Conformists, Quakers and Independents, and surely again the Anglican Evangelicals! “To apply the ethic of Christ to personal, social, political, national and international affairs.” The historian Halevy wrote of them, “Never in the history of Anglicanism had any party exercised so profound an influence.” But finally the essence of Evangelicalism is individual piety, as ‘In Christ’. It concerns the inner life, one’s relationship not so much to a divine and historic institution, but simply to God In Christ, but both personal & collective! Again the predominant necessity is of the New Birth and guidance of the Holy Spirit in the individual life, and thus “Church”, as the Body of Christ! Here is still somewhat the liturgical for the Anglican Evangelical, but not “sacramentarianism”. Well, you get my “heart” here I hope! 🙂 And here btw, we should allow both a Luther, and thus the Wesley’s, and too the Evangelical Calvinists…Methodist Calvinists/Calvinism. It is here that the Anglican Article XVII, Of Predestination and Election should be seen! And btw, I have never seen the Wesleyan Methodists work this Article out, rather than just rejecting it! Just a point.

  3. Auricular confession is not a means of evading secular law. It is a matter of reconciliation with God. Confession normally entails restitution Where restitutiin is impossible, secular legal consequences may be the next best option. The Anglican system is much to be preferred – absolution is made contingent upon legal disclosure.

    1. THe sacrament of confession is certainly not a means of evading secular law, nor is a means of enforcing it. More properly it has nothing to do with it. The conditions for absolution are (i) confession of the sin(s), (2) repentance and (3) a firm purpose of amendment.

      So a priest may withhold absolution from a murderer or a child molester if he has reason to believe that the penitent is insincere.. He may certainly direct atonement in some mannner – if necessary anonymously – The priest also may encourage the penitent to turn himself in to authorities.

      But the priest may not condition absolution for a murderer or a child molester upon confession to the civil authorities. That would reveal to outsiders the contents of the sacramental confession and thus violate the seal of the confessional.

    2. I know that it might sound rather silly but may I suggest a movie? “I Confess” (1953) by the Jesuit educated Alfred Hitchcock is, for me, one of the best explanation of what is expected by a Catholic priest who hears the confession of a criminal guilty of a heinous crime.

      1. Federico, Did you happen to catch the recent HBO/BBC movie (The Girl) about the interaction of Hitchcock with the actress Tippi Hedren? Quite interesting and reportedly very accurate. Often very, very painful to watch. Sadly, though not unexpectedly, Alfred, like all of us, had his own demons and was a bit…messed up.

  4. @Frederico. Thank you. It is off topic for this thread, but let’s put the record straight. Great Britain was responsible for adopting as policy the Balfour Declaration which made it the policy of HM Government to view with favour the establishment of a “National Home” for the Jews of the diaspora IN not OF Palestine – the key demand of the early Zionists. The UK assumed the responsibility for Mandate Palestine after the defeat of the Ottoman Empire.

    The statstics of the Palestine Government show that between 1920 and 1945 a total of 367,845 immigrants to Palestine were of the Jewish faith as opposed to just 33,304 for other faiths. The Government rightly (as it proved) felt that this was the maximum rate of immigration which could be supported without intercommunal violence.

    At the end of WW2 there were a significant number of Holocaust survivors in Europe among the other Displaced Persons. On 4th December 1945, the American Council for Judaisim made a proposal to the new President Trueman for the temporary admission of those Displaced Persons to the USA. A copy of the proposal is in the Trueman Library. href=””> The Lessing Proposal. It was vigorously opposed by the White Anglo-Saxon Prostestant establishment of Washington. Remember this was a time when the bathrooms of the Pentagon had only just been desegregated and when many leases prohibited letting to jews or blacks.

    The Palestine Authority was forced to admit huge numbers of immigrants, As it had predicted, savage intercommuunal violence ensured. A bankrupt UK which had been at war since 1939 was unable to cope, surrendered the Mandate to the UN and the rest is history. The UK dream of a Palestine where Arabs – Christians and Muslims – and Jews would live together and have equal rights ended in abject failure.

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