On October 5th, an independent commission established by French bishops released a 2,500 page report on clerical sexual abuse today after a 2.5 year investigation.

After the publication of the report, Head of the Bishops’ Conference of France Archbishop Eric de Moulins-Beaufort said the seal of confession is “above the laws of the Republic.”

“The secrecy of confession is a requirement and will remain a requirement – in a way, it is above the laws of the Republic. It creates a free space for speaking before God. Many children only speak during confession because they know it is secret.”

After making those comments Archbishop Moulins-Beaufort met with French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin at the request of President Emmanuel Macron.

After the meeting, the Archbishop made another statement reiterating his “shame and consternation” over the report:

“The determination of all bishops, and all Catholics, to make the protection of children an absolute priority, in close cooperation with the French authorities. The scope of the violence and sexual assaults against minors revealed by the report demands that the Church revise its practices in light of this reality. It is therefore necessary to reconcile the nature of confession with the need to protect children.”

French Interior Minister Darmanin also said after their meeting:

“I told him what I say to all religions: there is no law that is superior to the laws of the National Assembly and the Senate … The French Republic respects all religions from the moment they respect the Republic and the laws of the Republic.”

Following the hectic series of events, the spokeswoman for the French bishop’s conference released a statement to clarify they do not intend to compromise on Church teaching.

“One cannot change the canon law for France as it is international. A priest who today would violate the secrecy of the confession would be excommunicated. This is what Archbishop Moulins-Beaufort wanted to say last week after the publication of the Sauvé report, when he said that the seal of confession was above the laws of the Republic. He spoke the truth, but this truth is not audible in France for those who are not Catholic, and not understandable in France in the midst of debates on so-called ‘religious separatism.’ But if the state tells us [that priests must report crimes against minors revealed in confession] there would be an obligation to leave the secrecy of confession. This would mean that the priests concerned would be excommunicated by Rome. There will certainly be some adjustments proposed, which Rome will accept or not. But no, in no case did Archbishop de Moulins-Beaufort say that the seal of confession would be put aside. He never said that.”

Read Pope Francis recent homily on restoring confession “to the Place It Deserves” in Catholic Life.

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