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189 Law & Just. - Christian L. Rev. 126 (2022)
Confession in the Anglican Church - Breaking the Seal?

handle is hein.journals/ljusclr189 and id is 25 raw text is: 126
Abstract: This article briefly traces the residual presence of the Seal of the
Confessional in the Church of England after the Edwardine Reformation
prior to its modification in the Canons of 1603/4 and then the resurgence of
interest in the issue during the Catholic Revival of the nineteenth century;
and the provisions made in response to this over the next hundred years or
so. This is then set in the context of the wider Anglican Communion and
the various approaches to the seal reflecting the varying weight placed on
the inherited tradition by different provinces. It then proceeds to consider
whether the seal is or would be respected by the temporal authorities in some
of the jurisdictions in which the Anglican Church is present - particularly
the complex questions raised by the established status of the English
Church and its law. It notes the considerable pressure on the seal in some
jurisdictions following reports of the child abuse scandals and the part that
they assign to the seal of the confessional in encouraging the continuing
abuse of children and vulnerable people. It then considers the response of
the Australian Church and the possibility that England may follow suit in
qualifying the seal, questioning whether a qualified seal is a seal at all.
The inheritance of the English Reformation
Many Anglicans would be surprised to know that the issue of the Seal of
the Confessional was a question for English Anglican Law. Whilst the
practice of auricular confession is present in some more Catholic minded
congregations, even there it is not a strong element in Christian practice;
many might believe that it was swept away at the Reformation;1 and
doubtless, under the influence of preaching and teaching this was generally
the case. However, legally speaking, the practice of auricular confession
was more simply abandoned than swept away. There were proposals to
outlaw the practice,2 but they came to nothing. At the same time, a remnant
of it survived in the more obscure pages of the Book of Common Prayer.
In what follows, we shall consider the nature of the Seal, which
precludes disclosure of what is said during such a confession. This will be
a narrowly focused consideration, generally avoiding the broader subject of
See Tovey, P (ed), Kennedy, D & Atherstone, A: Common Worship Reconciliation and
Restoration (Grove Booklets - W 187 2006) p13.
2 eg. In a General Note of matters to be moved by the Clergy1563 s3.38 in Bray, G: The
Anglican Canons 1529 - 1947 (Boydell Press 1998) p735.

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