Question: Can a Religious Order or Bishop or Psychologist ask about Sexual Sins?

By Therese Ivers, JCL, OCVflower

Answer:  NO.  Unless the sin(s) are already public knowledge, nobody has the right to inquire into the conscience of another person outside of the confessional.  Men wishing to become priests who helped with the procural of an abortion will have to get a proper dispensation.  Women cannot be asked whether they’ve had abortions or indulged in any sexual activities by anyone for any purpose including vocational screening.  This right to a good reputation is not limited to sexual sins but to all sins.  Nobody is required to reveal any sin outside of confession that is not already a matter of public knowledge.  I wrote in further detail about this and abuses that happen when people violate privacy of conscience in my book on the protections of conscience because the Church took certain abuses so seriously that excommunication was the penalty given for religious superiors who illegally pried into other people’s consciences under the guise of obedience.


Because the protections of patient confidentiality cease under USA law if a person signs a release, candidates to the seminary, orders, or the consecrated life are strongly advised to consult with a canon lawyer on how to best protect their right to privacy prior to allowing a Church official or institution to review any psychological reports.  Candidates should know that the Holy See has norms on the use of psychological evaluations that are not always followed in the USA.

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