Sadly, I have learned that Father James Connell, a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee who is now retired from active ministry, has continued to disseminate false information about the sacramental seal of confession. He has publicly advocated for the removal of the legal protection of the confessional seal, suggesting there are situations where it is permissible to violate it.
Such assertions are gravely contrary to the definitive teachings of the Catholic Church about this sacrament. The Catholic Church firmly declares that the sacramental seal of confession is always, and in every circumstance without exception, completely inviolable. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee fully assents to this fundamental tenet of the Catholic faith.
The false assertions of Father James Connell have caused understandable and widespread unrest among the People of God, causing them to question if the privacy of the confessional can now be violated, by him or any other Catholic priest.
I have informed Father James Connell that effective immediately he is to cease all such erroneous communications that distort the teachings of the Church about the confessional seal. I have also immediately removed the canonical faculties of Father Connell to validly celebrate the Sacrament of Confession and to offer absolution, here in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and thereby also in the Catholic Church around the world.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee remains fully committed to the protection of all people from acts of abuse and neglect. However, our commitment to this protection in no way allows us to endorse or advocate for any practice, policy, or legislative action that would threaten the inviolable nature of the confessional seal, and the clergy-penitent privilege.
Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki
Archbishop of Milwaukee
The Archbishop is to be commended for taking swift action when this news was widely circulated. Michael Hichborn of the Lepanto Institute is also to be commended for doing his homework and providing to His Grace the information necessary to take these strong pastoral and disciplinary measures. Here is an update that Mr. Hichborn posted to his site:
UPDATE: Archbishop Jerome Listecki has issued a statement on Fr. James E. Connell. In his statement, Abp. Listecki removed Fr. Connell’s canonical faculties to hear confessions and ordered him to “cease all such erroneous communications that distort the teachings of the Church about the confessional seal.” Please read Abp. Listecki’s full statement, offer a Rosary on his behalf, and send him a note to thank him for his swift, bold and strong defense of the Seal of Confession.