Why I am prepared to go to prison
In light of the new legislation to force WA Catholic priests to report child sexual abuse, I am prepared to go to prison if reporting required breaking the sacramental seal of Penance/Reconciliation/Confession.
The reason is simple, “We must obey God rather than human beings!” (Acts 5:29). Admittedly this answer is unreflected and instinctual. One could offer other contrary proof texts such as, “for the Lord’s sake accept the authority of every human institution” (1 Peter 2:13).
Although I would not consider breaking the seal of the Sacrament due to obedience to God, a second consideration may be that the integrity of the Sacrament of Penance would be destroyed.
I don’t go to confession to have my sins broadcast to others. Rather I know that the Sacrament is an encounter between myself and my God. This sacred encounter with the God of mercy is an intimate and private affair in which my deepest, darkest actions and intentions are revealed. It would be a very slippery slope if there was no safe haven for human beings to reveal themselves in complete vulnerability and in complete confidence. More so when those people are seeking more than absolution; meaning that they are truly penitent and wanting to amend their lives.
The last reason that no priest would break the seal of Reconciliation is that the priest would automatically be excommunicated. Canon law states: “A confessor who directly violates the sacramental seal incurs a latae sententiae excommunication reserved to the Apostolic See; one who does so only indirectly is to be punished according to the gravity of the delict” (Can. 1388 §1.).
In conclusion, the “sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason” (Can. 983 §1.). And, as they say in Italy, punto e basta!