Confession, this absolute secret

The Secret of Confession

by Thomas Poussier

Salvator, 200 p., € 19

Lhe secret of confession is not a rule of the institution, an ordinary modality which one could dispose freely, according to the needs… It is a concrete and constantly updated sign of the hope of God for men. Keeping the seal of the secret of confession does not mean silencing crimes, misdemeanors or sins, it is allowing each person who desires it and asks for it to see a personal path of reconciliation and mercy open to him. “, wrote from his introduction Thomas Poussier in this book which tackles a sensitive subject, going to the essential, without frills or unnecessary controversy.

After reiterating the importance of professional secrecy in many areas of secular life, “One of the most important ways of protecting people and regulating life in society”, the priest of the diocese of Aix, and the new rector of the Saint-Luc seminary in Aix-en-Provence, insists on “The specificity of the secret of confession (and on) its absoluteness ”. Indeed, in this ” heart to Heart “ between man and God that is ultimately confession, “The priest is the visible sign, the representative of God, the one who makes God present to the penitent. That is why her lips are sealed forever. His ears heard what was intended for the heart of God ”… In short, “To absolute mercy, absolute secrecy”.

Once this theological principle has been established, which admits of neither exception nor prescription, it is necessary to establish a clear distinction with all other pastoral situations such as, for example, spiritual accompaniment, where “The priest has the possibility of denouncing the pedophile acts revealed”. “This difference, specifies the author in a well-found formula, illustrates well the two distinct postures of the accompanist (who remembers) and of the confessor (who forgets). “

The fact remains that the absolute nature of the secrecy of confession “Can engender in the public the feeling of a possible impunity offered to a criminal”, observes Thomas Poussier. This leads him to propose “Of(s) avenues to do justice despite safeguarding the absolute secrecy of confession ”. He suggests, for example, to refer the penitent to proceedings in the external forum.

The author discusses other difficult subjects such as the presumption of contrition or the possibility of postponing absolution. On this last point, he remains cautious, as on the proposal to make pedophile acts of “Reserved cases”, ie whose absolution is reserved for bishops or priests delegated by them. On such a subject, he holds a modest posture, content to advance, with great caution, a personal position when clerics are concerned: “Perhaps it would then be necessary to make acts of pedocriminality committed by clerics cases whose absolution would be reserved for certain priests whose ministry is not linked, geographically and canonically, to the cleric in question. Or ask certain bishops in each country to have this office. “

The book ends with two useful appendices. The first distinguishes between three terms that are sometimes confused: confession, spiritual accompaniment and psychological interview. The second deals with about fifteen pages of “The chastity of the confessor”… This book honestly goes around a question that is no longer really understood by many today, including within the Catholic Church. He will be of service to all.


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