Catholic leaders in Costa Rica oppose bill forcing priests to break seal of confession

The text points out that “reconciliation itself is a benefit that the wisdom of the Church has always safeguarded with all her moral and legal might, with the sacramental seal. Although it is not always understood by the modern mentality, it is indispensable for the sanctity of the sacrament and for the freedom of the conscience of the penitent.”

It also makes clear that the penitent “must be certain, at any time, that the sacramental conversation will remain within the secrecy of the confessional, between one’s own conscience that opens to grace and God, with the necessary mediation of the priest. The sacramental seal is indispensable and no human power has jurisdiction over it, nor lays any claim to it.”

The bishop also noted that the penitent seeks the sacrament being aware that the priest will listen to the sins “not as a man but as God,” i.e “in persona Christi capitis” — “in the person of Christ the head.”

Citing the penitentiary, he noted that “any political action or legislative initiative aimed at ‘breaching’ the inviolability of the sacramental seal would constitute an unacceptable offense against ‘libertas Ecclesiae’ [the freedom of the Church], which does not receive its legitimacy from individual states but from God; it would also constitute a violation of religious freedom, legally fundamental to all other freedoms, including the freedom of conscience of individual citizens, both penitents and confessors.”

Father Alejandro Jiménez, judicial vicar of the ecclesial tribunal of the Archdiocese of San José, said that the elimination of the seal of confession “is not going to provide a solution to anyone’s suffering, it is not going to correct the reality that has been experienced since the abuses, which do not find their origin in ecclesiastical or sacramental reality but are a social evil that the Church cannot tolerate.”

Lawyer José Rafael Fernández, legal adviser of the Catholic University of Costa Rica, noted that what the bill introduced in September aims to do is “to reform several articles of the Criminal Procedure Code and the Civil Code” resulting in “the absolute violation of the seal of confession of the priest.”

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