Letter from Bishop Vasa

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April 2003

Office of the Bishop DIOCESE OF BAKER BOX 5999 BEND, OREGON 97708

Dear Faithful Catholic,

As you know, the Seal of Confession is a very sacred and significant part of the Sacrament of Penance. This promise of inviolability allows repentant sinners to approach the priest with confidence even when facing terribly shameful and embarrassing matters. The Church has very zealously guarded the privacy of Confession and even attaches an automatic excommunication to any “confessor who directly violates the sacramental seal” (Canon 1388, 1).
An attempt is now underway in New Hampshire to erode this most serious of confidences, which no priest can legitimately violate even if mandated by a court of law. This erosion is not something which only affects certain things which may be confessed; it is literally an attack on the Sacrament of Confession itself. Undoubtedly, the lawmakers are well intentioned on their desire to protect innocent children from predatory behavior by adults, but violating the Seal of Confession will bring only harm and not good. Any abuser who knows that he or she can no longer confess with impunity will avoid the Sacrament and good and faithful Catholics will have their confidence in the Seal seriously shaken.

Such a law would open priests to allegations that “they must have heard something in confession” and a priest, precisely because of the Seal, would not morally be permitted to affirm or deny the allegation. Even if every other professional relationship, include attorney-client, were to be eliminated this would not justify or be a reason to mandate, under any circumstance, a violation of the Seal of Confession.

I invite you to join with Mr. Thomas McKenna in The Church Shall Prevail campaign which is dedicated to defending the honor of Holy Mother Church and in this specific instance, the inviolability of the Seal of Confession.

This is an area of Church life which has been repeatedly attacked in the past. In the past it has been repeatedly defended. Your assistance and participation now will assure that this unjust and shortsighted attack on one of our Sacraments will once again be repelled.

Asking every good grace and blessing of God upon you, I am

Sincerely Yours in Christ Jesus,

The Most Reverend Robert F. Vasa
Bishop of Baker

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