As part of my on-going research into spirituality, I’ve been going over an old manual published in 1905, Theory and Practice of the Confessional, that instructed priests on how to do confessions. There’s a whole chapter on soliciting sex in the confessional, and a lot of guideline and rules. Here’s a few of them:
- Denouncing a soliciting priest is required of all penitents who have been solicited under pain of excommunication. Anybody else who knows about it must do so or it’s a mortal sin. The only exceptions are when the person’s living in a non-Catholic country or the perp is dead, but it can be put off and done in various sneaky ways, but usually not anonymously.
- Until this is done, the solicitor has no jurisdiction over the penitent, plus the penitent can’t be forgiven. And it’s absolutely forbidden for the offending priest to absolve his “complex peccati“– his accomplice in sin. The person should not see the priest for any other sins, either, except when they have to in small communities, in order to avoid scandal.
- Whether or not the penitent consented to or even seduced the confessor, whatever the person’s gender, or whether or not he/she believes the man is sorry, or even the amount of time passed doesn’t matter. Still have to denounce him to the local bishop, the Sacred Penitentiary in Rome (who can issue dispensations for any of this), or their friendly neighborhood Inquisition.
- Doing it twice with one person, or absolving that person, means the priest is to lose his job as a confessor. Doing it with two people, parish priests must lose it with 6 months.
- Suspension of all priestly powers.
- Perpetual deprivation of all benefices, dignities, and offices.
- If the priest is in an order, loss of all voting rights.
- The priest can’t say Masses again, ever.
- Plus Pope Gregory XV added degradation from the priesthood and being handed over to the secular authorities to the list, but the book helpfully adds “more as imposed for ad terrorem than for the purpose of being actually carried out.”
These, it turns out, are the same rules and penalties that the Inquisition had approved back in the 1500s. Yet various authors have claimed that nobody knew, that the document known as Crimen Sollicitationis (The Crime of Solicitation) discovered among diocesan papers released from Boston during the 2002 scandals, was unknown and therefore ignored. That does not matter. This proves that the Inquisition was indeed still in charge just as it is, today.
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