These priests were martyred for refusing to violate the seal of confession

Denver, Colo., Aug 22, 2017 / 06:01 am (CNA/EWTN News).- In recent years, some Catholics have been concerned by pushes from governments in locations such as Louisiana and Australia who challenge the secrecy of the sacrament of confession, asking that priests betray the solemnity of penitents’ confessions when they hear of serious crimes in the confessional.

However, Catholics should not be afraid, because keeping the secrecy of the sacrament of confession is one of the most important promises priests make.

The code of canon law states that “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.” Priests who violate this seal of confession are automatically excommunicated.

Priests take this solemnity of the seal of confession very seriously; these four priests who died protecting it are witnesses to the extreme lengths to which priests are willing to go to protect the seal of confession.

St. John Nepomucene

Born in Bohemia, or what is now the Czech Republic, between 1340 and 1350,  St. John Nepomucene was an example of the protection of sacramental secrecy, being the first martyr who preferred to die rather than reveal the secret of confession.

When he was Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Prague, the now- saint servedas confessor of Sofia of Bavaria, the wife of King Wenceslaus. The king, who had infamous outbursts of anger and jealousy, ordered the priest to reveal the sins of his wife. The saint’s refusal infuriated Wenceslaus, who threatened to kill the priest if he did not tell him his wife’s secrets.

King Wenceslaus and John Nepomucene came into conflict again when the monarch wanted to seize a convent in order to take its wealth and give it to a relative. The saint prohibited its seizure because those goods belonged to the Church.

Filled with rage, the king ordered the torture of the saint, whose body was then thrown to the Vltava River in 1393.

St. Mateo Correa Magallanes

Saint Mateo Correa Magallanes was another martyr of the seal of confession. He was shot in Mexico during the Cristero War for refusing to reveal the confessions of prisoners rebelling against the Mexican government.

He was born in Tepechitlán in the state of Zacateca on July 22, 1866 and was ordained a priest in 1893. Fr. Matteo served as chaplain in various towns and parishes and was a member of the Knights of Columbus.

In 1927, the priest was arrested by Mexican army forces under General Eulogio Ortiz. A few days later, the general sent Father Correa to hear the confessions group of people who were to be shot. After Fr. Mateo finished administering the sacrament, the general then demanded that the priest reveal what he had heard.

Fr. Mateo responded with a resounding “no” and was executed. Currently, his remains are venerated in the Cathedral of Durango.

He was beatified Nov. 22, 1992 and canonized by St. John Paul II May 21, 2000.

Fr. Felipe Císcar Puig

Fr. Felipe Císcar Puig was a Valencian priest who is also also considered a martyr of the sacramental seal because he was martyred after keeping confessions secret during the religious persecution of the Spanish Civil War.

During the war, revolutionary and republican forces engaged in violent battles for power, and many Catholics were targeted. This was especially true of the coastal province of Valencia, on the Mediterranean sea.

The Archdiocese of Valencia indicated that, according to the documents collected, Father Císcar was taken to a prison near the end of August 1936. There, a Franciscan friar named Andrés Ivars asked that Fr. Císcar hear his confession before the friar was executed be firing squad.

“After the confession, they tried to extract its contents and before his refusal to reveal it, the militiamen threatened to kill him,” says an archdiocesan statement by a witness to the event.  The priest then replied, “Do what you want but I will not reveal the confession, I would die before that.”

“Seeing him so sure, they took him to a sham court where he was ordered to reveal the secrets.” Fr. Císar remained committed to his position, stating that he preferred to die, and the militiamen condemned him to death. Fathers Felipe Císcar and Andrés Ivars were taken by car to another location where they were shot on September 8, 1936. They were 71 and 51 years old, respectively.

Both Felipe Císcar and Andrés Ivars are part of the canonization cause of Ricardo Pelufo Esteve and 43 companions.

Fr. Fernando Olmedo Reguera

Fr. Fernando Olmedo Reguera was also a victim of the Spanish Civil War who opted to die rather than break the secrecy of confession.

Born in Santiago de Compostela Jan. 10, 1873 and ordained a priest in the Capuchin Order of Friars Minor on July 31, 1904, Fr. Olmedo was killed Aug. 12, 1936. He served the order as its provincial secretary until 1936, when he had to leave his convent due to the severe religious persecution in the area.

Fr. Olmedo was then arrested, and beaten in prison. He then was pressured into revealing the confessions of others, but Fr. Olmedo did not give in. According to reports, he was shot at a 19th century fortress outside of Madrid by a populist tribunal. His remains are entombed in the crypt of the Church of Jesus of Medinaceli in Madrid, and he was beatified in Tarragona Oct. 13, 2013.

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  1. A great evil, and darkness is spreading around the world, and has been for some time. Maybe (though I doubt it) – this type of physical display is what is necessary to wake up the church which has been in PC Lala land for so long.

    Calling people who try to stop it, culture warriors or ecumenical haters, singing Kumbahya, reading anything put out by the USCCB… isn’t going to help.

  2. An imperative article required for today well stated by the CNA editor. Pressure will increase on all principles Roman Catholic. The inviolability of confessional secrecy is among the more highly expected targets. No one is comfortable with knowledge that their confession can be revealed. A detriment to confession that must be resisted even unto death. The issue today is not simply the age old argument about a potential killer and so forth. It is State control over the populace. And the Church has historically been a thorn in side of despotic control. And it will remain so with the grace of God.

  3. I remember reading about this somewhere. Supposedly if they do reveal they are not only excommunicated but they cannot be forgiven and are condemned to hell.

    • Actually Michael a priest who breaks the seal of confession can be absolved, but exclusively by the Pope. However if the priest who breaks the seal is in danger of death the Church lifts its restriction and any priest can absolve him.

      • I’m a Protestant and do not believe the need of confession before a priest. I go directly to the Father in the name of Jesus Christ. However, if what Fr Peter Morello says is correct and a priest has a “way out” when threatened with death and can reveal my confessed sins in order to save his own life, then if I were Catholic, why on earth would I go to confession as required by the Catholic Church?

        • Hi, Linda. You’ve misunderstood Fr’s comment. He doesn’t mean that a priest, threatened with death, can violate the seal and reveal the contents of a confession. Precisely the opposite; a priest in such a circumstance must accept martyrdom rather than betray the seal. What Fr. means is that if a priest has, in the past, for whatever reason, committed the terrible sin of violating the seal, and is presently in immediate danger of death from whatever cause, he can be absolved by any priest if he repents and confesses. However, under any other circumstances this sin (violating the seal) is traditionally “reserved,” meaning that it is considered so extremely severe that one must apply directly to the Pope to be absolved. (As an aside, I believe that under present canon law this application can be made after absolution is granted conditionally, but I could be wrong about that. In any case, violating the seal, for whatever reason, even to save one’s own life, is one of the gravest sins imaginable and priests who hear confessions are, by doing so, professing a willingness to suffer any punishment, including imprisonment or death, rather than reveal what they hear in the confessional.)

  4. Thanks for your inspiring article about these heroes.

    In contrast, has there ever been a Catholic priest who HAS violated the seal of confession, for any reason? I’m guessing the answer is no, otherwise the anti-Catholics pushing this idea would be proclaiming their stories long and loud. But I would like to see it stated definitively by an expert in the history of the Church.

  5. More Fake News:
    — AD 33 – AD 800: Confession was a public liturgical ceremony performed once in a life time and before the whole congregation.
    — AD 1600 confessional / glory-hole box created so priest could have sex talk in private.
    — AD 1970 Reconciliation Room invented to priest would have full access to the faithful for sex.
    — AD 2017 Current confession practice is not in keeping with the communitarian theology of Vatican II requiring community participation and not another act of priestcraft. Ancient practice should be restored and Medieval practice eliminated.

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