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Reviewed by:
  • Le Secret Sacramentel Et Le Droit Canadien-
  • Gérard Dionne J.C.D., Bishop Emeritus
Le Secret Sacramentel Et Le Droit Canadien- par Gregory J. Zubacz, Collection Gratianus. Montréal: Wilson et Lafleur Ltée, 2010.

This study of Gregory J. Zubacz, a Catholic priest of the Ukranian Church in Canada, is remarkable for the extent of research. The author shows a thorough knowledge of the current laws and legal practices and their foundation in the distant history of law in several countries and in the Catholic and Orthodox Churches. Le secret sacramentel et le droit canadien includes seven chapters, of which only the last two treat directly the Canadian code. In fact, the author establishes the basis that gave birth to our code of law.

Our still relatively young country did not invent its own proper code of laws. It inherited it from the countries of our founders, from the British Commonwealth traditions and from the Catholic and Eastern Churches. In Canada, the federal and provincial governments share powers. There are notable differences between the laws of Quebec and Newfoundland-Labrador, heirs of the more ancient traditions, and those of the other provinces. But La Charte canadienne des droits et libertés (the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms) dominates the juridic landscape and guarantees several rights that concern liberty of conscience and of religion.

All law is subject to interpretation. This may create the risk of surprises and precedents. The Churches in Canada have asked for privileges that protect the particular situations. Actually, no law recognizes or protects the religious communications. This could be a cause of worry when we consider that « Le secret de la confession occupe un solide fondement en histoire, en philosophie, en droit naturel, en droit divin et en droit positif. Plusieurs auteurs ont fait remarquer que le secret de la confession catholique est la base même sur laquelle repose tout privilège relatif aux communications religieuses. » (222). One judge declared that « le secret de la confession est communément connu comme la plus haute forme du secret qui peut exister. » (224). Priests gave their lives to affirm values that [End Page 293] rests on three pillars: the divine law, the natural law and positive law. Thomas Aquinas said : « Puisque Dieu couvre les péchés de ceux qui les confessent dans le sacrement de pénitence, le prêtre qui se conforme à Dieu devrait, lui aussi, cacher les péchés. Le confesseur ne doit pas révéler ce qu'il apprend secrètement au confessionnal parce que ce qu'il sait ainsi, ne vient pas de révélation humaine mais divine, puisqu'en agissant comme confesseur, il tient la place de Dieu. » (27-28)

The author foresees « que l'incertitude actuelle de notre droit canadien dans ce domaine continuera jusqu'à ce que des précédents apparaissent. » Until now, our courts of justice have respected the right to the seal of confession very much like the right that protects the confidential relationship between the lawyer and his client. The author shows the difference between the laws that govern the Eastern Churches and the Latin Church with regard to the possible penalties for eventual offenders. The differences nevertheless do not affect the untouchable character of the seal of confession.

We live in a time when confession in the Catholic Church, especially in our country, could experience pressure in the courts of justice. Sexual abuses, no longer a taboo as in the past, risk to see priests asked and perhaps forced to say more than what they are permitted to do. One can foresee circumstances where more specific laws could include decisions that might be embarassing for judges and men of law. We know that, if the priest cannot reveal what is related to the confession of sins, the penitent can free him from that secret. Does this free the confessor from the laws of the Church? This is no doubt a question that will be considered in the courts of justice. Hence the need and advantage of clear and precise laws on the part of legislators and the necessity of recognizing the priviliges and duties of confessors. Subject...


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pp. 293-294
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