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Diocese stands by priest in rape case



Published: Fri, June 22, 2012 @ 12:07 a.m.

Sacredness of confession ‘is inviolable,’ officials say

photo

Bishop Murry

By John W. Goodwin Jr.

jgoodwin@vindy.com

YOUNGSTOWN

The Diocese of Youngstown has issued a statement saying a priest was not wrong for failing to notify police about information he received years ago concerning the molestation of an underage girl.

Michael Parent, 55, of Myrtle Beach, S.C., was sentenced Wednesday by Judge Lou A. D’Apolito of Mahoning County Common Pleas Court to 13 years in prison for raping his stepdaughter for years while living in Mahoning County. The rapes began in 1984 when the girl was 5 and did not end until 1996 when she was almost 18.

The victim, who is now 34, told authorities she went to the Rev. Michael Seifert and spoke about the assaults when she was 15, but the matter was never taken to police.

The diocese, in a press release issued Thursday afternoon, said it was not made aware of the issue or the allegations that Father Seifert did not report what the girl said to authorities until a story appeared in Thursday’s Vindicator, but church officials maintain that a priest cannot divulge information given in confidence.

Bishop George V. Murry of the diocese said the priest is duty bound to keep things disclosed to him in confidence.

“Catholics and most non- Catholics realize that the sacredness of the Seal of Confession cannot be broken under any circumstance,” Bishop Murry said.

Rev. Monsignor Peter Polando, adjutant judicial vicar of the Diocese of Youngstown, said the issue is addressed in the Code of Canon Law.

“The sacramental seal is invio-lable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason,” he quoted from the canon.

Canon law is the body of laws and regulations made by or adopted by an ecclesiastical authority for the government of the Christian organization and its members.

Monsignor Polando also said a priest cannot even acknowledge that a confessor has approached a priest for the sacrament of confession in protection of that sacred seal.

Father Seifert is no longer in Mahoning County, but the diocese made clear in the press release his transfer to a different location had nothing to do with the incident involving this victim.

Father Seifert was transferred in the normal process of reassigning priests within the six-county Diocese of Youngstown, the release said. Father Seifert served as associate pastor of St. Christine Church in Youngstown in 1984. He now pastors parishes in Alliance and Navarre, according to the diocese’s website.

Mahoning County Prosecutor Paul J. Gains said Father Seifert is not facing any criminal charges at this time, but his office is researching the matter to see if the priest was bound by law to report the abuse allegations.

“We don’t believe that he is a mandatory reporter, but we are looking at the issues to make that determination. ... We just have to really look at the law on this,” he said. “The priest has been completely cooperative with the investigation.”

Gains said that when questioned by detectives, Father Seifert confirmed that the victim reported the assaults to him.


Comments

1Rooster(78 comments)posted 2 years ago

I don't get this one. Ok, let's say the rapist "confessed" he raped a young kid. And was still doing it. And was going home to do it again that week. And that priest is protected by the church for not reporting?? But this isn't even the rapist confessing. It's the little girl finally working up the nerve to tell someone she thought would help her. She tells the priest what's going on. Mind you, this went on every week. And the priest tells her what? "Sorry, kid, you're Catholic, and the clergy ain't going to get you any help - but keep coming to confession??" Churches gone bankrupt all over the country over this kind of mess, and these priests still getting a pass from the bishops. It wasn't a confession ding dongs, it was a cry for help!

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2cambridge(2957 comments)posted 2 years ago

“Catholics and most non- Catholics realize that the sacredness of the Seal of Confession cannot be broken under any circumstance,” Bishop Murry said.

Voodoo!

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3ohioption(47 comments)posted 2 years ago

After Cain killed his brother Abel, the Lord inquired of Cain, "Where is your brother Abel?" "Am I my brother's keeper?" was the question asked by Cain of the Lord.

I guess we have another "Cain" in our diocese. Am I my brother's keeper? Yes, you are George. And you need to re-examine your purpose and that of our church. Your purpose is not to protect the church from lawsuits and conviction of its clergy for complicity to rape. You purpose is to protect those who can't protect themselves from evil. The innocent children who are being abused by any adults who would rape minors.

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4Attis(860 comments)posted 2 years ago

“The sacramental seal is invio-lable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason"

Who's the "penitent"? The teen rape victim who reached out for help and got a kick in the teeth? The serial child rapist who violated this girl for years before this "confession" and continued to do so for years afterwards? Or is it the priest who knows deep in his heart that he knowingly allowed a child to be raped with impunity and has to live with that burden for life? There are a lot of folks (all men: the rapist, the enabler and the excuser) in the sordid matter who should be doing penance and time.

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5starbright120582(4 comments)posted 2 years ago

I just want to give thanks to all whom were involved in this case. If it wasn't for the victim, Rev. Michael Seifert, and everyone else through this entire digusting event my child could have endured more. I am so very thankful that this was all brought out before matters could have became much worse. I was brought up in a Catholic background and I can totally understand where the viewers are coming from. Believe me I don't agree with the confession box , especially when it pertains to something of this nature. However, as a priest he can not go outside that and report such a heinous crime, but yet he had to live with that burden of guilt in his heart. When this all came about, the victim contacted this priest and he was more than helpful. They filed all the proper paper work to the "higher ups", and Rev. Michael Seifert was able to speak. For a man to remember ever detail of this crime after alittle over 20 years should tell us all something. He made his statement and was very helpful!! My child is also a victim from this man, and yes there are charges pending in another state. I just want everyone to please cut down on some of the ignorant comments.

Thankyou

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6starbright120582(4 comments)posted 2 years ago

Also, shame on the reporter who put these stories out of context! The victim went to CONFESSION, she did not seek COUNSELING from Rev. Michael Seifert. Or where you not paying attention when this was on trial? I am appalled by this reporter.

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7One_Who_Stayed(236 comments)posted 2 years ago

I'm kind of confused by this one as well.

If the guy who was doing the raping was in the booth "confessing" that's one thing and I can see the Priest not being able to tell anyone what he confessed to.

But it wasn't - it was the girl that was getting raped and (as far as I can tell) never asked the Priest not to tell anyone. . . did she? If she didn't, it seems to me that the Priest was free to tell anyone he liked about it - including the Police.

I would be really interested to hear what it was that she asked of him and what "advice" he gave her after hearing all this.

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8theotherside(329 comments)posted 2 years ago

Seems to me that this girl was seeking help more than going to confession. If that is the case, why is the priest bound by the rules of confession? Could the church hold that this child was sinful in this and in need of confession? Doesn't make sense.

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9Rooster(78 comments)posted 2 years ago

Well I re-read this again, and it's just not coming any clearer. So they got this sacred seal deal. Ok, I get that. Can't tell a secret. But someone explain how that also excuses not getting this kid some help. There's the seal thing and honoring whatever that is. But I don't see how that prevents putting the bug in someone's ear that this kid might need some looking into. So what if she tells him she's starving and needs some help. Let's say this conversation happens even in that little booth. He has to stay mum on that I guess. But he can't get someone to send over a food basket. Someone explain it to the simple folk like me. Because otherwise, I'm thinking they're using this sacred seal deal to excuse this excuse of a human being who couldn't lift a finger for this kid. No one's asking the guy to betray his seal deal. But Lord knows, sometimes we have to do a work around.

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10Rooster(78 comments)posted 2 years ago

Well I re-read this again, and it's just not coming any clearer. So they got this sacred seal deal. Ok, I get that. Can't tell a secret. But someone explain how that also excuses not getting this kid some help. There's the seal thing and honoring whatever that is. But I don't see how that prevents putting the bug in someone's ear that this kid might need some looking into. So what if she tells him she's starving and needs some help. Let's say this conversation happens even in that little booth. He has to stay mum on that I guess. But he can't get someone to send over a food basket. Someone explain it to the simple folk like me. Because otherwise, I'm thinking they're using this sacred seal deal to excuse this excuse of a human being who couldn't lift a finger for this kid. No one's asking the guy to betray his seal deal. But Lord knows, sometimes we have to do a work around.

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11southsidedave(4777 comments)posted 2 years ago

Now i'm starting to wonder about the Diocese?

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12redvert(2046 comments)posted 2 years ago

Yes, priests are supposed to be bound by rules except when they themselves are the pedophile. They can't report a crime, give me a break!

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13kensgirl(571 comments)posted 2 years ago

Kind of reminds me of what Joe Paterno did. "You were assaulted? Ok just hold on a little bit longer". I grew up Catholic and still don't understand confession. If you do something wrong then apologize straight to God. I never cared for going through a "middleman". Something might get lost in translation.

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14bsdtwd(40 comments)posted 2 years ago

As Issac Asimov said: "religion had it's place in human infancy". The curtain can now be lifted to show the Catholic Church has -0- zero, nada credibility. These hypocrites are obsessed with abortion and condoms while they xfer these monsters (Knowingly) to other Diocese to ruin lives all over this Country. Religion in general is the root of most evil, divisiveness and war on this Earth. Whether it's the hypocritical enabler of Pedophiles AKA the Catholic hierarchy or the Jews and the Islamic world who raise their kids to hate and kill non believers. It all has one common theme: religion based hate.

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15Rooster(78 comments)posted 2 years ago

Now hold on there bsdtwd. People also act better because of their religious teachings showing the way. Anything involving human beings is going to have its dark sides and idiots. You can't write off religion without giving credit to the best when you're trying to correct the worst. There are bad people who hide behind it, there are idiots who use this or that part of it for an excuse, like what's happened here. And there's plenty of examples of it changing folks and the world for the better. Including me, I hope. Everything christians teach would have led this preacher and this diocese to know that they were obligated to help this poor kid. They didn't. Now they have to hide behind some piece of doctrine, because they think in their own world the rest of us have to buy it. Now that's where the law should come in. Because it wasn't only not a christian thing to do, it was downright negligent. This isn't christianity we're seeing here, and don't mistake that. A decent person, like God expects us to be, would have found a way to help that kid. This diocese part, they're in the business of self protecting their organization. Don't mistake what that's about either.

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16thediffrence(13 comments)posted 2 years ago

No way the church is right on is one. The child went to the Preist for help and he did nothing! That is not a confessional privilage. But then again we are talking about the Catholic church and Priests that rape boys. It's because of things like this that the church has a bad name. ANyone else given that information is obligated by law to report it or then they have commited a crime. But hey, that's what religous freedom is all about right? Get out of laws just cry its against my religon. Disgusting.

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17MelanieSakoda(1 comment)posted 2 years ago

If a priest is really committed to protecting children, he could certainly get creative about how to handle information about abuse received in confession. For example, if a minor tells him that he/she is being abused, there's nothing to prevent him from telling the child to come to him OUTSIDE OF CONFESSION and repeat the allegations. He could then certainly act.

But you have to really have the desire to protect children, not the reputation of the church....

Melanie Jula Sakoda
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP)
SNAP East Bay Director
melanie.sakoda@gmail.com
925-708-6175

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