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Srecko Sostar

"Confession of sin" and Priest-penitent privilege

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The WT Society interprets that JW elders have the right not to disclose secrets to the police and to other government agencies regarding child abuse when members of the organization give them information, whether they are victims or perpetrators.

In this appeal, WT lawyers defend this right by invoking the Catholic Church and their clergy. In fact, although the WT Society and JWorg claim to have no priestly class as the Catholic Church, they do want the same privileges for their elders, before the bodies of the law, as Catholic priests do.

What is the doctrine in the Catholic Church regarding "confession"? What is the doctrine of the WT and JW Organization regarding "confession"?

The Catholic Church allows their priests to listen to the voluntary confessions of their believers and to give them comfort and forgiveness in the name of God as part of Christian mercy. Priests must never reveal to anyone the confession secrets they have heard from believers.

The WT JW organization teaching that the believers of their religion should also confess their sins to their "priests", who are the elders. Although in the formal every day language, words "confession of sin" are viewed in different way, different picture than it is in Catholic church, it can be said that it is formally the similar idea as in the Catholic Church. Awareness of one's sin may come to elders in two ways: as a voluntary confession of one's sins before one or more elders or when a member of the Assembly declared the sin of another member of the organization.

There are two outcomes for a JW believer after the elders find out about a sin. He will either be allowed to remain as full member of the assembly, or be expelled/dfd from the organization.

What does that tell us? Although the WT JW organization claims that it is incorrect and unbiblical when a Catholic priest forgives sins to a Catholic believer, we are free to observe that in their treating, JW elders towards their member, they act in the same way as a Catholic priest. By allowing JW sinner to remain to be a member of the congregation, they, as the Judges of the JW Church, forgave him. They forgave him on their's behalf, on behalf of the injured party, and on behalf of the assembly. In the event that they had excluded sinners, it would mean that no one had forgiven him. This kind of treatment denies the allegations regarding the Catholic Church about who have right to "forgive sins".

Certain Bible passages teaching assembly members to be prepared to forgive the sins of other members. This actually means that there is a basis on which one sinner can forgive sins of a another sinner. If so, then it means that some sin can be forgiven, not just by the directly injured party, but by any other member of the congregation. Every member can, if he wants and wish, but he is not forced if he does not want to.

But in the Catholic Church, a believer who has the burden of sin and wants to confess it in his church, goes to only one priest, not two or three, and confesses his sin only to him. In this case, sin is confessed to only one person. And that forms the basis for the "secret" in the Catholic Church. Because the secret is revealed to only one person.

In the JW congregation, "confession of sin" gets another level of "secrecy." The secret does not remain verbally spoken between two people, but the "secret" extends to 3 or 4 people, maybe more. However, it is very important to note that the "confession" is also documented in writing. According to what i know, a Catholic priest does not making (mandatory) written record for the sins of his believers. JW elders, by contrast, must make a "confidential file" kept in the archives and / or destroyed if it would be said so by the authority of the higher hierarchy body.

 

It is unacceptable that the WT JW organization invokes the Catholic Church and their "penitent privilege", or "confessional secrets" between believers and chaplains (soul carrier, shepherd), as the basis by which it operates within its own organization and regulates the spiritual life of believers in the JW Church.

The "confessional secret" in the Catholic Church  and "confession of sin" before the elders in the JW assembly are two things.

 

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Just to clarify: There were no laws in place in the 1950s, 1960s and even most countries in 1970s......regarding sexual abuse.   "Mandatory reporting" is a relatively new law and covers the loopholes in the law that previously existed........ This was not the fault of institutions but the negligence of law makers.  What was the JWs to do?

JWs  therefore kept records of suspected child abuse cases since 1950s  to be able to notify other congregations of this possibility when suspected perpetrators moved. JWs were the only organization to try to mitigate this problem and now they are "smeared" because of these records.

As I said before - Congress should be blamed for all the loopholes in the laws in the past......no one really knew what to do with these cases and therefore  most perpetrators got away with it...... until 2007 ...when the law changed. How?

During  new court proceedings the victim (children) could no longer be cross-examined in an open court with the perpetrator in view.  Recordings and other methods of testimony was now allowed.   This was the main reason most perpetrators got away with crimes in the past because children had to go through a second abuse of court proceedings and could not measure up.  (However, mosr governments still do not provide enough "expertise" in this field to support children going to court. ... it costs too much.)

The one law which still exists and should be debated is this "priviledge of privacy" of lawyers and spiritual advisors. 

It is not without merit: it does not matter if you have a team of lawyers or only one ..... (a team of priests or one) you have the right to privacy with them (even if you are guilty),  in order to have a fair trial.... well that has been the past legal premise.

Similarly, a person could confess to a priest and then go to a trial for murder. The priest was never called up to testify about the confession (he merely looked after the soul of the person) but the court proceedings had to produce  sufficient evidence to get a conviction.

If necessary - the state should change this "privacy of confession" law.

So - If someone started coming to our meetings and confessed a past sexual sin.   Must elders now report it?  Or is it up to the "victim" to report past sins to the police?  Especially now that one can report it  retro-actively.   The law macine is in place to follow up and investigate.......and get evidence. But the law has failed many people.......why? Lets face the truth - child victims and their parents never felt free to go to the law - even in adult rape cases women and men face a terrible time after a rape. 

(The congregation proceedings as in case of priests is separate from the law - it  deals with only the spiritual side of things).

What I do get is that the government is now enabling victims to go after the wrong people - not the perpetrator .....but the organization which can give the most compensation.... Why did the victim not lodge a complaint with police ? Because the law machine was inadequate. It is too much trouble to get a good court case together and the evidence.  And even if they have enough evidence - it depends on the social status of the perpetrator. A good example of this is the current case of Epstein. The law actually actually allowed Epstein to go after the victims in the Epstein case....to silence them ..... and Epstein got away with 34 counts of abuse and trafficking of minors about 10 years ago.

To me it is  clear case that the state has not been doing its job and now want to blame and saddle  the organizations who have had children in their midst with ALL the reckless irresponsibility.... that they ( lawgivers) hould have been sued for.

 The state legislators of the past were clearly the ones who neglected putting solid laws in place and the law machine has been inadequate. 

 

 

 

 

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On 9/9/2019 at 5:14 AM, Arauna said:

JWs  therefore kept records of suspected child abuse cases since 1950s

It would be good to see Scriptural support for this practice and WT interpretation on possible Bible verse about recording and documenting sins of people for future purpose or for any kind of purpose.

On 9/9/2019 at 5:14 AM, Arauna said:

JWs  therefore kept records of suspected child abuse cases since 1950s  to be able to notify other congregations of this possibility when suspected perpetrators moved. JWs were the only organization to try to mitigate this problem and now they are "smeared" because of these records.

You here described one reason for WT collecting records of  one specific sin. Topic i put is not about one sort of sin only, but about "principle" that stand behind practice of "confession" and who are involved in this process. And as main question: what connecting Catholic priests and JW elders in this religious custom called "confession of sins"?

On 9/9/2019 at 5:14 AM, Arauna said:

As I said before - Congress should be blamed for all the loopholes in the laws in the past

It can be ... or it is, as you conclude. Do you think how this justifying  wrong decisions of priests and elders?

On 9/9/2019 at 5:14 AM, Arauna said:

Similarly, a person could confess to a priest and then go to a trial for murder. The priest was never called up to testify about the confession (he merely looked after the soul of the person) but the court proceedings had to produce  sufficient evidence to get a conviction.

If necessary - the state should change this "privacy of confession" law.

In this "principle", how priest have not obligation to testify about person's sin, does this also mean how elder must to keep silent about "confessed sin" of bro/sis and not spread this knowledge to other elders in congregation? I am not going in problematic on what sort of sin is about, we just discussing  about idea and mechanism of this in every day life of believers. 

On 9/9/2019 at 5:14 AM, Arauna said:

So - If someone started coming to our meetings and confessed a past sexual sin.

 

This is not real thing to aspect. Only few of many  candidate to baptism would be in such mental state to go and start talking about past sins, of every sort. Only few individuals (in specific mental  and psychical  state) would be burdened with past sins, who would try to find peace in confession (or not to stop feel guilt no matter of how much they repeating confession of sin/s). 

On 9/9/2019 at 5:14 AM, Arauna said:

 The state legislators of the past were clearly the ones who neglected putting solid laws in place and the law machine has been inadequate. 

Again, agree.  But, we all know how ordinary people expect more of those who are sitting on "spiritual adviser" (priest, elder) chair. So, again: Does imperfect "worldly" legislation gave justification to those individuals, groups and organizations, who made Bible Principles to be weak, imperfect and  also bad as secular law? 

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