Leroy Skinner Sr., 68, of Marietta, Ohio, pled guilty this week in Washington County Common Pleas Court to sexually abusing a six-month-old child in 2006.
His priest, Rev. Tim Huffman of Our Lady of Mercy Catholic Church in Marietta, Ohio, turned him in because he admitted to molesting the infant. The priest said that he would not have called the police nor in any way kept this monster from molesting more children, had Skinner invoked the sanctity of confession.
That’s it. If Leroy Skinner had said, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned,” yada yada yada, before he told Huffman all the lurid details of sexually abusing a six-month old infant, the priest would have kept his mouth shut and allowed Skinner to walk out of his church, free to abuse more children. Pedophiles do not stop abusing children. The fact that Skinner abused an infant probably means that he has long abused children and that there are many more victimized children out there, probably more than the 113-victim average for most pedophiles.
Huffman told his local newspaper, The Marietta Times, that “Had [Skinner] made the admission of guilt in the Sacrament of Penance, I could not have, under any circumstance whatsoever, revealed the contents of that confession to anyone, via any means, at any time or in any place.” Huffman said the distinction is important because violating the seal of the confessional would be a serious breach of church law. “I, of course, do not want anyone to think that I would ever consider doing such a thing,” Huffman said.
Furthermore, Huffman said, “(During a confession) I could argue the need for someone to turn themself in, but I could not make them, and I could not withhold absolution if that person was truly sorry and wished not to do it again.”
This facile understanding of the Sacrament of Confession is commonplace among priests and yet another symptom of the Catholic Church’s adherence to doctrine that violates the spirit but not the letter of their religion. Even a lawyer understands that one must adhere to both the letter and the spirit of the law.
Surely, even God didn’t mean for there to be legal loopholes in confession.
The Catholic Church has been allowing pedophiles from within their own ranks to walk the streets by only discussing their crimes within the Sacrament of Confession.
It’s time that the Church recognized that those who will not turn themselves in are not truly repentant and that pedophiles have no intention of sinning no more.
The Sacrament of Confession is never valid in these cases, absolution should not be given until the sex offender has confessed in open court, and priests should turn pedophiles over to the police as criminals and the sinners they are.
Author of RABID: A Novel