Robert Barron | – Priests, Confession, and Prison

A recent bill proposed in the California Senate will force priests to report any crimes of sexual abuse they hear about in the confessional, breaking the seal of Confession. In this episode, I discuss the sacredness of this sacrament and what the Church should do if, suddenly, the sacrament of Confession becomes functionally illegal.

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About The Author

Bishop Robert Barron These are brief and insightful commentaries on faith and culture by Catholic theologian and author Bishop Robert Barron. The videos complement his weekly sermons posted and podcasted at

Comment (49)

  1. If a priest learns of ongoing or imminent abuse during confession can he take action to try to stop it which falls short of actually disclosing the conversation? What if a priest thinks a confession is insincere or even taunting him can he decide it is not a valid confession and therefore tell the police ?

  2. Welcome to the People's Republic of California where we can make a law to solve every problem! I am Anglican, so not fully "Catholic" but I heartily agree with the good Bishop's point in this matter. Our own communion is Australia tried to institute such a sacramental violation. The nature of Confession is that the priest is acting in the person of Christ the Incarnate Deity, Word made Flesh and as such the contents of the confession is between God and the one making the confession… There is no way around this distinction. God gives his Church the authority to loose and bind sins. Something for all those self identified Catholics such as Gavin Newsom and Nancy Pelosi to think about…

  3. Didn't Christ say "whose sins you shall forgive, they are forgiven, whose sins you shall retain they are retained". If the penitent admits to child abuse, can the confessor not say something like "I must retain your sins unless you report yourself to the police, when you do that I will forgive your sins"

  4. How can other wise grown up people sit there and defend a morally depraved institution like the Roman Catholic church? In the following video one victim states: The abuse was so common it became normal" He tells how the priest put his hands up his trousers and grabbed his penis. And this is just ONE case of thousands. It is the priests themselves who should be in prison! Who hears THEIR confession? Tell me that you dont know that the so-called leaders of the church are not aware of this sick and disgusting moral depravity? Cardinal Law of Boston and to leave because he covered it up for thirty years, I hope he is roasting in hell. "He apologized for all those victims who had suffered because of him" Wow. What an asshole, don´t take my word for it, play the video. Next how about another of your brilliant "leaders" Cardinal George Pell? How about this asshole here is is sentencing video The judge says: "You are to be sentenced as a serious sexual offender" These are the LEADERS of your dumb-ass church that you so strongly believe in, NOT isolated cases!!!! The Catholic church covered up predator priest John Geoghan´s crimes for 25 years This is YOUR church that these videos are talking about. And this is just the tip of the iceberg.

  5. A similar law has already been enacted in Australia in the ACT (the Australian Capital Territory which includes the Australian capital city of Canberra). Bishop Barron should speak to the Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn Christopher Prowse.

  6. It wouldn´t be a bad idea to do some SERIOUS research apart from the bible verse about Peter being a rock and "founding a church" to ask yourself if Jesus really had any intention of setting up any kind of religious organization whatsoever, much less a political institution like the Catholic church, or that he had any desire at all to found any sort of church. The cut and paste job on the Christian bible has a lot to say about this, given that there were many outright deletions, and, more important, insertions into it from the time of the 3rd century and the Council of Nicea. You never hear Jesus speak many times about "his church" or "his religion". I cannot imagine a much worse departure from the simple teachings of Jesus than the present Catholic church with all its creed and dogma, tacked on over the centuries by men who desired power and position, and one thing surely is, is that this church is rooted in men who have power and position" If you doubt it, read up how Cardinal Law was able for thirty years to cover up the sex crimes of his priests because he had the power to do it.

  7. Question, if a priest does become aware of a child who is being abused through a confession, what steps can he take to protect that child? This would apply to anyone really. If someone confesses they are planning to harm or have been harming someone? Is there anything a priest can do to protect that person?

  8. Cardinal George Pell has been sentenced to six years' jail for sexually abusing two choirboys when he was Catholic archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s. Chief Judge Peter Kidd said Pell's abuse was "a brazen and forcible sexual attack on the victims" that was "breathtakingly arrogant

  9. Cardinal George Pell has been sentenced to six years' jail for sexually abusing two choirboys when he was Catholic archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s. Chief Judge Peter Kidd said Pell's abuse was "a brazen and forcible sexual attack on the victims" that was "breathtakingly arrogant

  10. Cardinal George Pell has been sentenced to six years' jail for sexually abusing two choirboys when he was Catholic archbishop of Melbourne in the 1990s.

    Key points:

    Pell will be eligible for parole after three years and eight months

    The chief judge said Pell's abuse of the two choirboys was "brazen and forcible"

    But he said Pell must not be punished for the suffering of sexual abuse survivors generally

    Pell, 77, was found guilty by a jury last December of sexually abusing the choirboys after a Sunday mass in December 1996 and then assaulting one of them a second time two months later.

    The man who was once Australia's most powerful Catholic sat in the dock dressed in a black shirt and a grey blazer, without a clerical collar, as County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd delivered his sentence.

    The chief judge described Pell's abuse of two choirboys in the sacristy at St Patrick's Cathedral as "a brazen and forcible sexual attack on the victims".

    "The acts were sexually graphic, both victims were visibly and audibly distressed during the offending," he said.

    "There is an added layer of degradation and humiliation that each of your victims must have felt in knowing that their abuse had been witnessed by the other."

  11. Bishop Barren – I've always been a big fan, listener to WoF, etc. However, on this you are wrong. You do not present other side….what happens to the child that is being sexually abused? Imagine this scenario: A father comes into your confessional and every week confesses to you that he is raping his daughter. You absolve him of his sin, but he refuses to stop his behavior or turn himself into the police. You are now an accomplise in his crime. What do you say to the child who is being raped every week???? I've listened to 3 videos of your on this topic and each time, you refuse to state what happens to the sexually abused child you are turning a blind toward. Which tells me you know you are wrong……morally, ethically, and Biblically….you mention Cannon Law but not the Bible. You are wrong Bishop Barron. In fact, you are committing the sin of Clericalism and this is why people are leaving the Church, they want to save their children from priests like you.

  12. And who in hell is the puny State of California to dictate to the Catholic Church—the oldest institution on the face of the earth, which preëxists every nation, state, country and institution we know, the "inventor" of Western Civilisation and facilitator of the modern world? This bill is so clearly a violation of the First Amendment's Free Exercise Clause that it's ridiculous. Let Sacramento go to hell!

  13. Repentance is a GIFT from Yahweh to those who will CEASE from sin. 1 Peter 4: 1.

    Those who continue in sin have NO repentance whatsoever.

    The sorrow of the world leads to death. 2 Cor. 7: 9- 11.

    Godly Repentance leads to LIFE.

    NEW Life FREED from sin. Rom. 6: 22.

    NEW LIFE : 1 John 3: 6 and 9. 1 John 5: 18.

    Rev. 12: 17. Rev. 14: 12. Rev. 22: 14. These alone will be saved.

    1 Peter 4: 18. NO salvation for sinners. John 3: 1- 8.

    May Yahweh give you your hearts desire.

    bless you

  14. It won't affect the traditional Catholic priests in California who hear 99 percent of all confessions behind a screen and therefore cannot actually identify who said what let alone prove it because the screens are opaque and prevent anyone's face from being seen. Especially since all traditional confessionals are very dimly lit.

  15. The laws in most all European countries require ANY PERSON who knows of a sexual offence having taken place to report it! Dog collar or no dog collar. If they want to break the law send the fucking priests to jail too. The religious comments on here are just so way out. No one is above the law. No one. May sex offender George Pell rot in prison where is at this moment.

  16. Did you delete the story of "Sodom and Gomorrah destruction" from your Bible? Did you delete the 6th commandment from the 10 commandments? We are not living under a rock, so don't distort the Truth. God don't want your intellect but your obedience.

  17. There is no sign up sheet to go to confession and confession is completely anonymous so exactly what is there to report? These California liberals are evil and nuts. Compliance would be completely unnecessary, unprovable, and unlawful.

  18. Hey Brandon, is it possible along the new chair to get Bishop Barron a new stand for the camera. It's always wiggling and the corner of the background map is always flicking when it moves! Stability at all levels!

    Keep it up with the show!

  19. Your video brought tears to my eyes. It is sad to think that clergy who are supposed to stand up and be counted for what is right and supporting the idea that sex offenders should not be reported because of some religious nonsense. An offense is an offense. The comments on this video are reflective of religious brainwashing.

  20. California government which has been around for less than 200 years is now going to direct Catholics on how to handle the 2000 year old tradition of Confession. When will liberal Catholics realize how dangerous "Progressives" are to the Church?

  21. Jesus never spoke of "Hell" … but most of the translations of what He said spoke "Hell" for Jesus.. Even in those days.. they don't call him by the name "Jesus" no one called him in that name until I think the first English Translation of the "Bible"..

    Jesus spoke of "Gehenna" or "Gehenna Fire" in four occasions! 11 Times.. once by James.

    The word "Hell" is not in Hebrew or in the Septuagint. It is used to translate this four words which you have to study by yourself.

    1. Sheol (64 Times in the Old Testament)

    – now a days Sheol is commonly translated Grave, Pit, The realm of the dead.. some translation actually does not have "HELL" in the old testament and some does not have "HELL" in the whole bible.

    2. Hades (11 Times in the NT)

    3. Gehenna (12 Times in the NT)

    4. Tartarus (only once in the NT)

    Even the Mosaic Law and Moses, scholars agree on this that Moses did not warn the Israelite about future after-death punishments.. every punishment is only temporal and only in this world. That means.. The OLD Covenant of God does not contain Hell and Eternal Torment!

    One more thing! think about this… Adam, Cain, Noah, Abraham, Moses, Paul etc. never was warned and has warned anyone about this place. Though Paul quoted Hosea 13:14 in 1 Corinthians 15:55 about (Sheol OT-Hebrew) -> (Hades NT-Greek) in very glorious positive way!

    One last thing, this is unfair! let say we translated Sheol, Hades, Gehenna and Tartarus( Tartarus is a common word in the Greek Mythology)

    -> 88 times as Hell and in those 88 times most of it does not warn anyone about it.

  22. Mister Magician has an Imaginary Friend who lives in the sky. His Imaginary Friend makes all the rules like creeds and dogmas to control people´s thinking. Remember that religion has always been in the control business. One man goes to another man and confesses, "I killed your sister. I shot her in the head". The other man says "As a priest I am bound by the rules of the confessional so I cannot turn you in to the police, so its just too bad about my sister. You understand I have to go by the made-up rules of my Imaginary Friend in the sky."

    Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, California

    Dear Bishop Barron:

    You say in this video that in your fourth year of seminary, in a course on the sacrament of confession, you were taught that «Once the confession HAS HAPPENED, if someone enquires "Oh, what happened in that confession?", your answer {as a priest} is "IT DIDN'T HAPPEN."»

    However, in this hypothetical case, confession DID happen—so, you are saying that you were taught that LYING is built-in into the aftermath of the sacrament of confession. I think you really need to ask yourself if what you were taught is compatible with the teaching of Our Lord Jesus Christ and His Church.

    Christian doctrine and common sense dictate that the SIN of LYING by a priest, CANNOT be a part of, nor be attached in any way whatsoever, to the perfect sacrament of confession or any other sacrament of the Catholic faith.

    When you give the sacrament of confession to Mr. So-and-so and you are thereafter asked whether you gave the sacrament of confession to Mr. So-and-so, you can simply and Christianly tell the truth AND STILL not violate the seal of confession.

    Instead of LYING, you can simply say "YES, I gave the sacrament of confession to Mr. So-and-so, but I am bound by my priestly vows NOT to reveal the contents of the confession—and you can defrock me, imprison me, torture me, and even kill me but I will NOT, so help me God, violate my priestly vows."

    Any Catholic worth his salt, not to mention a priest, is called by Our Lord Jesus Christ to not shrink away in the face of martyrdom but rather to ask Our Lord for COURAGE in order to ENDURE AND REJOICE in it.

    In Jesus Christ Our Lord,

    Dr. Rafael Andrés Escribano

  24. How lovely. A child abusing priest can confess to another child abusing priest and vice versa. All in secret and both priests feeling better after being forgiven of their sins by the grace of Christ.
    How lovely.

  25. In 1908 in Vietnam, a French protectorate at that time, a revolutionary confessed that he and a group of insurgents were planning a rebellion in the near future. The priest immediately informed the French authorities, and 38 of the insurgents were executed. Those 38 men and women are still revered as martyrs by the Vietnamese.

  26. lots of people end up in jail or kill becouse priest confess the police the crime or violation a human vomit that's wy I say to people don't confess that you kill some one because they will report you church of any nomination works with the government no doubt about it