Cardinal (Basil Hume) Keeps Police out of Confessionals

Article excerpt

London

After an intervention by the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales, the British government has decided to exempt religious confessionals from a new law giving police wider powers to conceal microphones to monitor conversations.

The Roman Catholic Church strictly protects the confidentiality of confession, according to which no priest is permitted to reveal to anyone, even to the police or a court of law, what a Roman Catholic penitent has told him during the confession of sins.

The UK Police Bill, which passed its key second reading stage in the House of Commons in February gives the police extensive powers of "intrusive surveillance"--popularly known as "bugging and burgling." Its aim is to give police extra powers to catch drug traffickers, kidnappers, terrorists and fraudsters, but Cardinal Basil Hume, Archbishop of Westminster, wrote last month to the government minister responsible for the police, Home Secretary Michael Howard, expressing concern that the sanctity of the confessional might in some circumstances be violated. …