Seal of Confession Goes on Trial

I only recently heard about this case where a confession being heard by priest in a federal prison was recorded by authorities. It raises the most fundamental legal questions about Church and State separation.

Church and State Face Off in Court

By Annamarie Adkins

SALEM, Oregon, AUG. 26, 2009 ( When Father Timothy Mockaitis heard inmate Conan Wayne Hale’s sacramental confession on April 22, 1996, he had no idea it was being recorded.

He also didn’t know that the event would spur an unprecedented legal case that attempted to demonstrate that a violation of the seal of the confessional was an infringement on the free exercise of religion guaranteed by the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Father Mockaitis details these pivotal events in his new book, “The Seal: A Priest’s Story.” The pastor of Queen of Peace Catholic Church shared with ZENIT how this case involved not only canon law versus civil law, but also a threat to the long term viability of our Constitutional freedoms.

ZENIT: You filed a lawsuit to prevent disclosure of the contents of the confession. What were your legal claims?

Father Mockaitis: Our legal position was based essentially on First and Fourth Amendment violations, which concern religious freedom and protections against illegal search and seizure.

We also claimed civil rights violations against privacy. This was an offense against not only the Church, but against the penitent himself.

Read the entire article on the Zenit website.

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