21 October 2014

Further and further apart: the seal of the Confessional.

There was something in the Public Papers to the effect that the Church of England's General Synod is to debate modifying the Seal of the Confessional. This is all part of the anti-paedophile hysteria.

Occasionally one comes across people who think we left the Church of England because of quaint hang-ups about women ministers. Far from it. As long ago as 1944, Dom Gregory Dix, writing about proposals to accept the 'Orders' of Protestant bodies, observed "The Anglican Church and Ministry would have been equated with various Protestant societies and Ministries as slightly variant specimens of the same thing ... what these proposals amount to is an official Anglican admission that Pope Leo XIII was right after all in his fundamental contention in Apostolicae curae." But that is precisely what the Church of England did with the 'Porvoo' agreement (1996), and the Anglican-Methodist 'Covenant' (2003).

The ARCIC process began in the 1960s with an agreement that neither 'side' would put new obstacles in the way of convergence. The Anglican 'side' ignored this in the following decades, and an effective abolition of the Seal of the Confessional would be just another nail in the same old coffin. 

Will the C of E consult its 'partners in ecumenical dialogue' about the 'Seal' before deciding? It should, really, because for the C of E to abolish it would put the RCC under more pressure and lead to secularists accusing the Church of being motivated by a desire to 'protect' paedophile clergy.

I have fewer contacts now within the C of E. More's the pity. But I would bet on it not abolishing the Seal, at least this time round (even though the Australian Anglican Church unanimously did so), because even among what are called "Affirming Catholics" and among some high church ordained women, there are still a lot of memories of Catholicism. If I am wrong, this will prove that what Wilfrid Ward naughtily called Old Mother Damnable has deteriorated even further than I suspected!
 Footnote When the Canon Law of the Provinces of Canterbury and York was being revised in the 1960s, Crown lawyers advised that the C of E wouldn't be able to secure for the clergy the right to refuse to give evidence in court about confessions. Hence the Seal could not be included in the revised Code. So the C of E got round this by leaving unrepealed  one single canon of the 1604 code: the 1604 canon prescribing the Seal. So there it is, like a Stuart sore thumb, tacked on at the end of the 1960s code! The only problem about it is that it is not absolute: it allows for a priest to break the seal if observing it would result in his own life being legally forfeit. I've always suspected that detail of being included to prevent recusant clergy, accused of complicity in treason for not informing on Catholic 'plotters', from citing the Anglican canons in their defence.

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