Rumour has it that the Anglican Church in Australia is modifying or has modified the Seal of the Confessional so that Anglican Clergy may report paedophiles to the police. This happens at the same time as legal pressures, I gather, are growing in Australia to compel (all) clergy to report such offences to the police. (Unsurprisingly, similar suggestions have been made before the British Royal Commission on Sex Abuse ... but not, I think, by Anglican clergy. Tell me if I'm wrong!)
One argument brought forward is that if a child mentions such activity while confessing, they are not really confessing a sin of their own. The answer to this seems to me fairly simple. ("My dear, I need you to come to me outside this confessional and to tell me again what Uncle X did to you. Then I will be able to help both you and Uncle X properly".)
If the information in my first paragraph is accurate, then I believe that a very serious situation is arising for ecumenical dialogue, and especially for the now-pointless (but still-expensive) organisation called ARCIC. This dialogue was set up on the explicit premise that the old disagreements inherited from the Reformation period would be sorted out, and that neither 'side' would put in place new divergences. I wonder if this question of the Seal of the Confessional was ever discussed at any level of 'ecumenical dialogue', nationally or internationally.
In English Anglican Canon Law (Canon 113 of 1604, never repealed), the provisions for the Seal of the Confessional are for practical purposes the same as they are for Catholics (the Anglican canon does, I regretfully admit, permit the Seal to be broken if, otherwise, the priest himself would incur the death penalty for not reporting some matter ... but there cannot be many offences for which a priest can be strung up under modern Australian or British law).
Of course, the ARCIC understanding that neither side would introduce new divergences was bull-dozed out of the way in order to allow for the 'ordination' of women to sacerdotal ministries within most Anglican provinces. But this new divergence concering the seal of the Confessional is, in some ways, even graver. You see, with the Anglicans going down this path, things will become much more difficult for Catholic clergy who may be prosecuted for not delating paedophile penitents. Catholic clergy will have been hung out to dry by their Anglican 'friends'.
The Anglicans will also have made it easier for Catholic priests to be sent to prison for contempt of court ... because, of course, a Catholic priest in the witness box is unable even to say "I never heard that in my Confessional", because one is not allowed to say anything about what transpires there. Or even to indicate it by a nod or a wink or a hint or an allusion.
Some moralists used to argue that one could deny having heard something in the confessional by assuming "I heard it while acting as a conduit to God; I did not hear it qua Father X". But this would have the unfortunate effect of providing a court with evidence for the innocence of a guilty defendant.
And it's even nastier than that. Anglican clergy (especially but not only in the diocese of Sidney) hear very few confessions compared with the numbers that Catholic clergy hear. So the Anglicans are abandoning their Catholic 'partners in ecumenical dialogue' to be persecuted by the agents of the Zeitgeist with regard to a subject which really matters very little to the overwhelming majority of Anglicans.
It reminds me of how some Orthodox collaborated with Stalinism in the persecution of their fellow-Christians.
Ultimately, this whole business is a symbol of the determination of the secular state to leave no corner of space or moment of time outside its own iron grip. Under cover of protecting children, Christ the King will have been even more effectively uncrowned. Am I alone in detecting here all the hallmarks of the Enemy?
Well, so be it. But it's a shame the Anglicans too are so keen to kick us in the teeth. Perhaps it's just that they find it so terribly hard to get out of the habit of persecuting us. But there is no need to worry, is there: in a century or two, with tears of emotion in their eyes, their successors will formally apologise to our successors. That will make everything All Right, won't it?