Under the Federal Rules of Evidence and the state rules in all 50 states, confidential communications to clergy are protected from disclosure. The definition of "confidential communications" vary from state-to-state, but they are largely the same.
Under Catholic Church doctrine, statements made to clergy during confession may not be disclosed. There is an exception if the person indicates he/she intends to cause harm to himself/herself or others. But, typically, if the penitent admits to a crime already committed, the exception does not apply.
In this case, husband goes to church. Tells priest he needs to talk to him. They go into the rectory and are alone. Husband tells priest he just killed his wife, has a gun, and plans to go home and kill himself. Priest calls 911. Police show up and arrest him.
The "explanation" for the priest calling 911 is that this was not the "formal sacrament of confession," so the non-disclosure rule does not apply.
Huh??? The modern Church is moving away from formal confessional in the booth and many of these confessions now take place in more of an office setting. The formality of the setting never used to be the determining factor. Certainly, under the law (federal and state) the formality of the setting does not matter. I find this explanation disturbing.
Now, if the Church wanted to say the exception was because he posed a risk to himself, that is another matter. But, in that case, the priest could only disclose the fact he had a gun and planned on killing himself.
If there are no dogs in Heaven, then when I die I want to go where they went. - Will Rogers
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