By Tim Harfmann
For Monsignor Thomas Caserta, nothing could force him to reveal what was told to him in the confessional. “If that means I go to jail, well I go to jail,” he said.
The Holy Father’s order on July 1 to release a new document about keeping confessions secret is coming, according to the Vatican, in the “light of a worry negative prejudice against the Church.”
In California, legislation already passed the State Senate, which calls for priests to tell authorities the details of penitent’s confession of sexual abuse crimes.
“Its worked. It has been successful in identifying bringing to justice and preventing child abuse and neglect,” said Democratic Senator Jerry Hill. He introduced the bill, which is not yet law in the state.
Monsignor Caserta is the pastor of Saint Bernadette Church in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn and a Theology professor at Saint John’s University. He’s also involved in the spiritual direction of priests and religious in the Brooklyn diocese.
He called Senator Hill’s measure a direct attack on the Church.
“It is a gross violation of religious liberty, which is exactly what the Holy Father said,” Monsignor Caserta continued. “And in no way, under no circumstances, should a priest be expected to reveal anything he heard.”
Monsignor Caserta said he would appeal to the sinner instead, “I could try to use my moral authority, as a priest, to urge the person to go forward and report their wrongdoing to the appropriate authorities; but I can’t make that a condition of their absolution.”
The pope’s new document points out that keeping confessions secret is an act of martyrdom to the unique and universal saving power of Christ and His Church.