Confessional seal, but only sometimes

Confessional seal, but only sometimes

A priest alleged to have had a sexual relationship with a suspect in the murder of 20-year-old Jonathan Wessner is said to have taken a lie detector test after a judge said only part of his conversations with the suspect, Paul Nolin, were privileged. Fr. Bernard Kelly had claimed that his relationship with Nolin was spiritual and that clergy-penitent privilege prevented him from testifying before a grand jury.

The grand jury proceedings are secet, but Kelly’s lawyer says his client answered polygraph questions:

He said Kelly answered “no” to three questions: “Did Paul Nolin ever tell you he murdered Jonathan Wessner? Did Nolin ever discuss the death of Jonathan Wessner with you? Did Nolin ever tell you the location of Wessner’s body?”

Perhaps a priest can correct me, but if you’re asserting the secrecy of the confessional related to conversations with a pentitent, isn’t answering yes or no questions still a violation? I thought you weren’t allowed to give any hint of what was said, positive or negative.

Imagine a different situation. A man goes to his priest to confess adultery. Meanwhile the priest is subpoenaed and is asked whether the guy ever confessed to embezzling from his company. That’s still revealing the content of the confession, even if it is what the guy didn’t say.

Fr. Kelly’s protestations of being only concerned for the sanctity of the confessional are beginning to ring hollow.

And polygraphs are still inadmissable in court, by the way.

Written by
Domenico Bettinelli

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