A reader writes:

One thing that I haven't seen you mention is the issue of the Seal of Confessional. If someone confesses something during the Sacrament of Reconciliation - anything, no matter how vile, evil, or illegal - the priest hearing the confession is not supposed to repeat it to anyone. Ever. Period. Breaking that confidentiality means automatic excommunication. The priest can set the penance as confessing to the legal authority, but can't enforce it.

There's a very good reason that rule is there. God's mercy is infinite, and people shouldn't be afraid that the priest is going to inform on them to the civil authority. But it's equally obvious to me that this presents a gigantic loophole for abusers. If a pedophile priest confesses to his direct superior, what's that superior going to do?

The confessional is different, but none of the cases we have been discussing came from there. They came, it appears, from the parents of raped children. The admissions of guilt were made in non-confessional forums. The Pope presided over a meeting at which a man deemed a clear and present "danger" to children was merely shunted from one parish to another, and ended up raping several.

In other words, this is a red herring.

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