Priest-penitent privilege

Priest-Penitent Privilege

Priest-penitent privilege

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The priest-penitent privilege, also known as the clergy privilege, clergy-penitent privilege, confessional privilege, and ecclesiastical privilege, is an application of the principle of privileged communication that protects the contents of communications between a member of the clergy and a penitent, who shares information in confidence. It stems from the principle of confessional privilege. It is a distinct concept from that of confidentiality (see non-disclosure agreement).

Republic of Ireland

The privilege was recognised under the common law of the Republic of Ireland as the privilege of the priest in the case of Cook v. Carroll IR 515.McNicol (1992) p.338, n.88.

United States of America

The First Amendment is largely cited as the jurisprudential basis. The earliest and most influential case acknowledging the priest-penitent privilege was People v. Phillips, where the Court of General Sessions of the City of New York refused to compel a priest to testify or face criminal punishment. The Court opined:

"It is essential to the free exercise of a religion, that its ordinances should be administered - that its ceremonies as well as its essentials should be protected. Secrecy is of the essence of penance. The sinner will not confess, nor will the priest receive his confession, if the veil of secrecy is removed: To decide that the minister shall promulgate what he receives in confession, is to declare that there shall be no penance..."

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