Friday, June 15, 2012

Irish Government Goes Ahead With Attack On Religious Freedom

A quick post, breaking my silence during this very busy week.  All going well at the Congress, but we are kept going - my producer is working us hard!    Continuity, interviews, vox pop!  I'm doing introductions in my sleep!   

I see Minister for Justice Alan Shatter is going ahead with his Bill - officially The Criminal Justice (Withholding of Information on Offenses Against Children and Vulnerable Persons) Act, which will make it a criminal offence for a priest not to break the Seal of Confession.  Well, we shall see how things turn out.  For one thing we priests will not break the Seal, end of story: orthodox and dissident priests will be united on that one.  Put us in jail, drag us through the media, we won't do it.  We abhor the abuse of children, but we cannot break the Seal, to do so would violate the sacrament. 

This move is a direct attack on the Catholic faith - it goes against the Constitutional protection to freedom of religion, so if Mr Shatter wants to make a move against a priest he will find himself facing a Constitutional challenge and, listening to some of my friends in legal circles, he will most likely lose.  I personally think the Minister knows this is non runner from the start, I believe he is posing and wants to be seen to be getting back at the Church for her failures.  But to revert to religious persecution: well, Mr Shatter should know better.

One interesting question arises: will the President be able to sign it?  If it offends the Constitution's protection of religious freedom, President Higgins will have to refer it to the Supreme Court to be tested, and it may well be thrown out.  Given that the President is Labour, however, he may not refer it since Labour is pushing this legislation, so it may come down to a challenge should a priest be prosecuted.

William Oddie has an interesting take on it: he welcomes the legislation, believing that it might help in the renewal of the Church.  One commentor in the combox of Oddie's article points out that a priest may be set up - that is true.  Would our government stoop so low?  Probably not.  Would our media?  Well, I'm not so sure there.  Having observed some reporters from the mainstream media (and one in particular), I'm not impressed with them and would expect anything.

Well, time for that novena to St John Nepomuk.  I knew the statue I bought a few years ago would come in handy. 

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