A foretaste of things to come has arrived to the Christian Church in Australia. Secular power has demanded under legislation that all Christian Ministers who hear Confessions; a practice carried out by Catholics, Orthodox, Coptics, Assyrians, Anglicans, Lutherans and even marginal groups like the Mormons; are under obligation to break confessional confidentiality, and denounce their own parishioners, when they encounter a repentant paedophile in confession.
Even though, the confidentiality of Confession is not expressly mentioned in the Bible, this confidentiality is an essential part of the practice of Confession.
In John 20:23, Lord Jesus gave power to the Apostles, to absolve and retain sins on individuals, by conferring upon them, the same authority to forgive sins He Himself had (Luke 5:24; John 20:21-23). However, Lord Jesus never stipulated a specific manner to do it, and not as the only via of forgiveness in the Christian Church.
The Power of the Keys, given to Peter and the Apostles (Matthew 16:18; 18:18) was the authority, in the Name of Jesus Christ, to absolve sins committed against God and the community, more than of a personal nature. In order to provide people with confidence to approach Absolution, discretion and privacy were ensured on behalf of Confessor.
If the Minister hearing the confessions stands in place of Jesus, it is understood that once confessed, those sins are removed from God’s presence and cannot be brought back to memory again (Isaiah 1:18), as if they were still current. And these same principles are the ones under attack from the secular government.
There are three manners to practice Confession without the interference of any other agent. In this case, my recommendation will be:
1 – DO NOT REVEAL THE SIN. It would be impossible for the government to find out what was said in the confessional. To disobey civil power for doing God’s Work, it is not sinful.
2 – ABSOLVE SINS WITHOUT HEARING CONFESSION. To be effective the Confession, all the penitent needs is to feel repentance, have the purpose of changing, and request to be absolved. So it is enough to pray to God requesting forgiveness and to provide Absolution, without hearing a detailed report of the penitents sins committed.
3 – GENERAL ABSOLUTION. As it is the usage among the Assyrians, Anglicans and some Orthodox; a General Absolution is provided at every service to all those assisting. A strong pastoral follow up will be required after that on a permanent basis, but at least in this case, as in the second, no knowledge of particulars will be passed on.
This is only a speck of things to come in due time. This will move the Christian community to change practices and policies to fit the times and preserve her faithfulness to our Lord Jesus Christ.
We must support our Ministers in this difficult situation and show determination. AS bad as this policy may be, it will provide an opportunity for a public testimony of our faith, the True Christian Faith, more precious than Gold.