Confessors can't turn in priests
Vatican City - A Roman Catholic confessor can do no more than absolve a sinner, even one who confesses to paedophilia, a Vatican official said on Tuesday as a string of predator priest scandals rock the Church.
The confessor is not required to "ask the sinner to turn himself in to the authorities," Gianfranco Girotti said in an interview with the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano.
Girotti, a bishop responsible for one of the Vatican's three courts, said: "The only possible outcome of confession is absolution."
Asked about the paedophilia scandals, he said: "It is not up to the confessor to make (confessions of paedophilia) public, nor to ask the repenter to turn himself in to his superiors."
Girotti argued: "For one thing, the seal of the (confession) sacrament is inviolable, and for another we must not engender mistrust among penitents."
When a sinner approaches the confessional he "must expect only absolution from the confessor, and surely not a judgement or an injunction to confess his crime in public".
Paedophile priest scandals have rocked several churches in Europe since the Irish government released two explosive reports in November.
Revelations followed in Switzerland, The Netherlands, Austria and Germany - the homeland of Pope Benedict XVI.
The latest churches to become mired in scandal are that of Brazil, where three priests in north eastern Arapiraca have been removed for suspected paedophilia, and Spain, with the jailing in Chile of a Spanish religious instructor for possession of pornographic images of children.
Earlier scandals shocked Catholics in the United States, Canada, Australia and Mexico.