Cardinal Sean Brady made a spirited defence of the Seal of the Confessional in Knock on Sunday, correctly pointing out that any legislation requiring priests to break the Seal will challenge religious freedom in this country. The government, however, is determined to go ahead, and Alan Shatter, the Minister of Justice, has responded to the Cardinal's defence by insisting that priests will not be exempt.
Indeed such legislation would contravene our Constitutional rights with regard to the practice of our Catholic faith, that is why I think this legislation may be a non-runner, unless of course the present government seeks to change the Constitution and limit religious freedom in certain circumstances. Now having spoken to some friends on this they all said that if such a referendum is presented to the people they would reject it. They might, I say, if they know about it. But then there are other ways of getting the consent of the people.
There is due to be a referendum on children's rights in the next few months - seeking a change in the Constitution which may introduce particularly worrying developments. This proposed amendment to the Constitution may dissolve certain parental rights, transferring them to the state, in order to protect children and give them more rights as citizens. What is stopping the government from including a clause, a nice ambiguous clause, into the wording of the amendment which will state that certain religious rights may be suspended or overlooked in certain cases in order to protect the life, health or welfare of the child? Nothing. Groups will argue about the amendment, its supporters roll out the hard cases and try to win the assent of the people. Is this what the goverment intends to do?