The Washington Post weighs in with an editorial on the proposed Maryland law that would break the confessional seal. The newspaper credits Cardinal McCarrick of Washington with killing the bill with an intense lobbying campaign. They also say that the cardinal did the right thing and that the law is on his side. But they say his focus must also include reforms.
- Cardinal McCarrick might want to treat this less as an entitlement than as an enormous privilege that carries grave responsibility. After all, no other counselor’s privilege is absolute: Psychiatrists must report suspected abuse, and attorneys must report any knowledge of future crimes.
The newspaper wants McCarrick to instruct his clergy that if they learn about abuse in the confessional that they should use every valid means at their disposal to bring out in the open. Such methods could include the withholding of absolution or, as the Post suggests, the priest can find out about the same thing from another source. I’m not sure it works that way; he may still not be able to speak about it. But the editorial goes on:
- Instead, Cardinal McCarrick has devoted his energy to fighting off any local legal reforms—the confessional law and another that would extend the statute of limitations on civil suits past the age of 21. The first is understandable. But the statute of limitations should be extended, allowing Maryland to catch up to psychological research demonstrating the long period it sometimes takes for victims to press charges. In both cases, the church need not see the legal authorities as the enemy.
I agree. While expending your resources to protect the sacraments is one thing, expending to protect the diocese from lawsuits based on valid grounds is another.