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Church in France worried about threat to secrecy of confessional

France's judiciary is threatening the secrecy of the confessional and the Church's professional secrecy, warns Cardinal Louis-Marie Billé of Lyon.

"When an ecclesiastical judge knows that his notes and conclusions could be shown with impunity before a penal jurisdiction, he will lose the necessary freedom of action. He will meet with an obstacle, and it is precisely the freedom of worship that is at stake," Cardinal Billé told the plenary assembly of the French bishops' conference under way.

"The Church is concerned with cooperating in uncovering the truth," Cardinal Billé said. "However, how can it do so if its measures can no longer be applied? French justice cannot reproach the Church for inaction in the face of crimes or offences committed by priests and at the same time block the functioning of its internal justice."

"By deliberately denying the professional secrecy of the ministers of worship it will impede the Church from assuming its responsibilities and cooperating in seeking the truth," warned the cardinal.

Cardinal Billé cited the example of a Bishop Pierre Pican of Bayeux-Lisieux, who received a suspended jail sentence for his failure to publicly censure a priest who confided to the bishop his tendency toward pedophilia.

Conférence des évêques de France: Assemblée plénière 2001