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French priest refuses to reveal confessional details of sex abuse

The opening of hearings last week into whether or not a French bishop should face trial for not revealing what was told to him in the confessional box has opened a 1000 year old debate about the seal of the confessional.

Monsignor Pierre Pican, the bishop of Bayeux in Normandy, is accused of not acting to protect young boys against a paedophile priest in his diocese, even though the priest in question, Rene Bissey, repeatedly confessed his sins over a 25-year period.

Bissey, who was sentenced to 18 years imprisonment last year for his crimes, said in his trial that he felt no guilt whatsoever towards his victims, as the confessional "always absolved me, told me things would work out."

For refusal to answer questions that might prejudice his own defence at Bisseys trial, Pican now faces charges of "failing to disclose sexual abuse and maltreatment of minors below the age of 15 by a figure in authority".

The Catholic church in France remains divided over the case, with many clerics defending the decision of Monsignor Pican not to break the seal. Mgr Pican faces up to three years in jail in a landmark case that pits the secrecy of the confessional, against the moral requirements of justice and society.

Irish Independent