14:36, August 20 318 0 theguardian.com

2017-08-20 14:36:03
Using confession to face up to crimes

As a (sinful) Anglo-Catholic priest, I, too, would never disclose anything said to me during the sacrament of confession (or reconciliation, as many now prefer to call it), even under threat of prosecution (Confession is sacrosanct, Joanna Moorhead, 17 August).

However, the confessor is at liberty to prescribe an act of penance, and this could surely include, in cases such as child abuse, domestic violence, or murder, for example, a promise to seek professional help, or even an admission of guilt to the appropriate authorities, before any further absolving could be given. In this way, all consciences would be respected and sacrilegiousness avoided.

Fr Alec Mitchell


As a Catholic myself I know exactly where Joanna Moorhead is coming from. She is correct in asserting that the confessional is sacrosanct and what is said there stays there. Once this sacred ritual is compromised in this way, it would be the death knell of all that we hold dear.

The very idea of prosecuting priests is anathema and should be strongly condemned as the confessional is the last bastion where people can repent and express genuine sorrow for their sins. Priests in this way have a huge burden to carry but if they can influence perpetrators of these heinous crimes to seek help or give themselves in, so much the better.

But I would say that to unburden to a priest is a proactive way forward and hopefully means that the perpetrators have taken ownership of the seriousness of their crimes and will do their utmost to change their life and behaviour in the future.

Judith Daniels

Great Yarmouth, Norfolk

Joanna Moorhead defends the primacy of confessional confidentiality with the perverse conceit that any other arrangement – for example, a legal obligation on priests to report confessions of child abuse to the authorities – would “deny our humanity”.

This is nothing more than a reaffirmation of a longstanding policy within the Catholic church – that any concern for abuse victims is always mediated by institutional self-interest, with justice set aside, or even obstructed, in the service of church dogma.

Henry Thompson


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