‘Never betray your penitents’

Oakland Bishop Michael Barber uses ordination homily to warn new priests never to violate seal of confession, regardless of what the law may say

Bishop Barber consecrates the wine during the ordination Mass. From left, clockwise, Rev. Wayne Campell, vocations director; Rev. Mark Ruiz, Very Rev. George Mockel, vicar general; and Revs. Javier Ramirez and John Pietruszka.
(Image: Albert C. Pacciorini/The Catholic Voice)

[The following is an excerpt from Bishop Barber’s homily from the Ordination 
to the Priesthood Mass on May 31.]

Father Javier, Father Mark, and Father John, you have not had a straight and easy path to the altar tonight. Each of your vocation stories has had twists and turns, on and offs, marching forward and in reverse. All the more can we say with Jeremiah the prophet tonight: You have been called and chosen.

You’ve been called and chosen for what? You’ve been called and chosen to serve as a priest of Jesus Christ…

When it comes to the Sacrament of Confession, “To celebrate faithfully and with reverence” MEANS, you will never violate the seal of confession. You will not reveal to any person at any time or for any reason, what you hear in confession even if the state were to pass a law “requiring” you to do that. No one may require you to break God’s law. You promise me, and everyone here tonight, that you will never betray your penitents.

The Catholic priest forgoes the intimacy of a married life for another kind of intimacy, the intimacy that he shares with Christ. In the confessional, you share the intimacy that Christ the Good Shepherd has with his flock. When you hear confession, you hear what only Christ may hear. And you represent Him in giving Absolution.

I emphasize this tonight because a law was passed last week by the California state Senate, which would require a priest to break the seal of confession and report certain sins heard to the police. In a moment’s time, you will promise me and God and the whole Catholic Church that you will never do that. Even if the state does pass and sign into law this legislation, you need to promise me AND especially our people that you will never betray them.

Our people need to know this so that nothing will keep them from seeking forgiveness of their sins from you Father Mark, Father John, Father Javier. They need to know they can trust you with this most sacred of confidences.

You are called and chosen.

You are called and chosen to serve.

You are called and chosen to serve our people with the precious sacraments of the Eucharist and Reconciliation…

After 33 years in the priesthood, I testify that Our Lady will come to your aid even before you ask her. She’ll always be there for you. Every priest is Mary’s son. You are her sons. She is your mother…

Full story at Catholic Voice Oakland.

Comments

  1. Gabriel Espinosa says

    Thank you Bishop for reaffirming that Church Law overrides the ridiculous state.

  2. I renew the pledge I made at my ordination to hold the sanctity of the Sacrament of Penance. I am hearing many confessions this spring/summer as I supply at parishes. I took away the face to face chair, and directed penitents to the area behind the screen. It still is a very personal experience of God’s forgiveness even though I do not see the faces of penitents, nor do they see mine.

  3. Since this hit the news I have been saying that priests have died and will continue to die before they betray the sacred trust of the Seal. I have been laicized for 42 years yet my reverence for the mystery of the Seal has never diminished. Do what you want, California – You’ll not encroach on us to this extent.

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