“If the ministers of religion have the choice to keep silent or to denounce the past facts, they cannot remain inactive”

Tribune. Incorporated into professional secrecy since 1810 by the Court of Cassation, the secrecy of confession is criminally protected under article 226-13 of the penal code and requires religious ministers not to reveal the confidences entrusted to them.

The secrecy of confession is nevertheless regularly called into question by various scandals that have shaken the Catholic Church. The publication, October 5, of the Sauvé report and the remarks of the President of the Conference of Bishops of France, Mgr de Moulins-Beaufort, on a possible hierarchy between the law and the sacrament of confession, aroused strong reactions.

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The question deserves, in fact, that we examine it more carefully because, beyond a social subject, the legal regime of the lifting of secrecy is uncertain and ambiguous.

An exception to the exception

As a reminder, any citizen must, under penalty of being sentenced to three years’ imprisonment and a fine of 45,000 euros, report to the judicial or administrative authorities any crime whose effects it is still possible to prevent or limit, or ” prevent perpetrators from reoffending, as well as any ill-treatment, assault or sexual harm inflicted on a minor or a vulnerable person.

This obligation is not absolute, since persons bound by professional secrecy – lawyers, doctors or ministers of religion – are exempt from denunciation when they have received the information within the framework of the exercise of said secrecy.

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So why such a debate? In reality, the legal regime is not so clear, since an exception to the exception is provided for by the penal code, which authorizes the lifting of secrecy to inform the competent authorities of deprivation or abuse, including when These are sexual assaults or mutilations inflicted on a minor or a vulnerable person.

Thus, the law does not oblige ministers of religion to reveal such offenses, but allows them to do so. The nuance is essential, since, in this last hypothesis, the minister of worship who keeps the secret is not punishable. The accumulation of these texts therefore confers on ministers of religion a real “Conscience option”, leaving them to arbitrate between silence and revelation.

No assistance to the person in danger

The current debate suggests that this option is more difficult to exercise for ministers of religion than for other professions bound by professional secrecy. Why ? Certainly because the canon law does not foresee it and provides that “The sacramental secrecy is inviolable; this is why it is absolutely forbidden for the confessor to betray a penitent in any way, by words or in any other way, and for any reason whatsoever ”, under penalty of excommunication.

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“If the ministers of religion have the choice to keep silent or to denounce the past facts, they cannot remain inactive”

The Inside News Hyderabad