Canada attacks priest-penitent rights.
At the beginning of August, news agencies reported that the priest-penitent confidentiality of the confessional was being threatened at the New York deliberations over procedures for the soon-to-be-established International Criminal Court. (The ICC was approved in principle last fall but its exact form and mandate must be determined and approved by at least 60 UN member countries before it becomes functional.) Moreover, Catholic agencies learned that this attack had been launched by the Canadian delegation.
The Vatican's legal expert, Msgr. Vincent LaRocca of Brooklyn, explained that the Vatican believed that recognition of the confidentiality of the confessional had been secured in Rome last year. He was taken aback when he discovered that a new working paper made no mention of it. He submitted a defence of it during a closed session of the Working Group on Rules of Procedure and Evidence on July 27 and gave the Argentinian chairman a draft of wording to ensure that protection. LaRocca acknowledged, "We're having a tough time in there" (Cath. Reg., Aug. 9 '99).
La Rocca also informed the Canadian bishops of the events. Thereupon the Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) wrote External Affairs Minister Lloyd Axworthy for an explanation (August 12). Catholic Insight, meanwhile, asked Dennis Mills, Member of Parliament for Broadview-Greenwood (Toronto) to look into it. On August 29 the National Post covered the event in a lengthy front page article. But so far there has been no explanation as to who it was among the Canadians who thought up this latest attack on the Church.
La Rocca maintained that once he made his objections known, Canadian delegate Donald Piragoff was cooperative and changed the draft to protect priest-penitent confidentiality. But some observers say the wording in the final draft still leaves the priest-penitent relationship vulnerable. Richard Wilkins, who teaches law at Brigham Young University and who made a presentation on privilege to the ICC, said that "depending on how this language is interpreted, there could be essentially no priest-penitent privilege in the ICC" (National Post, Aug. 29).
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|Article Type:||Brief Article|
|Date:||Oct 1, 1999|
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