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Evelyn_Alexie
07-24-2016, 07:25 AM
Is there a Protestant in the house? :2angel:

I'm writing a story that is targeted toward the Inspirational market. It has to be generically Christian, with no denominations specifically mentioned. The hero is burdened with a secret and wants to talk to someone about it. Would a pastor be considered safe to talk to?

I understand that Protestants /can/ confess their sins to a pastor, but that it's not as formalized a ritual as the Catholic sacrament is. I wasn't sure if the hero would feel safe confessing his secret to a pastor or not. Dorothy Sayers had a whole scene where a character goes to an Anglican priest to talk about her sins, and that was treated as confidential. Would the same be true for other denominations?

Googling this topic brought up a whole lot of links to the responsibility of a pastor to tell the authorities if the penitent is a child molester or something like that. In this story, the hero is a practicing Christian, he's in the Army, and he's been ordered by his superiors to spy on another country. The two countries are not at war yet, but both sides are thinking about it. He's on a mission to scope out the territory for potential occupation.

The scene is not an essential part of the story, so I could take it out if I had to.

Perks
07-24-2016, 07:31 AM
I grew up in several denominations of Protestantism and converted to Catholicism in my late twenties. There's not a lot of similarity between the idea of seeking counsel from a pastor and the formal Sacrament of Confession. There is an air of protection around the ritual in the Catholic church that isn't present in the Protestant churchlife. (Although the actual legal protections are there for Protestant ministers the same as for priests. It's just not something that's really addressed in teaching.)

So, it would entirely depend on the pastor and the congregant. If he trusted his pastor, he might, but it might not occur to him as it would a parishioner in a Catholic church.

Evelyn_Alexie
07-24-2016, 07:41 AM
Thank you, Perks! That was very helpful.

AW Admin
07-24-2016, 07:43 AM
Confession within a Protestant denomination is not generally regularized; one of the big issues in the Church of England split in the 16th century, and later, in the Tractarian or Oxford movement was about "auricular confession," that is audible and deliberate confession of sins. Lutheran churches have frequently retained confession, and many evangelical Protestant denominations, churches, and congregations have returned to auricular confession, typically, in public.

Evelyn_Alexie
07-24-2016, 07:47 AM
AWA, in those cases, would the penitent expect the confession to be treated as confidential?

This story is set in 1845, but I'm not sure how much that matters since it is being read by an audience (presumably including Protestants) whose expectations are influenced by the modern church. A Catholic would expect any confession to be absolutely confidential. What would a Protestant expect?

I suspect the answer might be, "It depends." Would it shock you -- would you think the man a blithering fool -- if he confessed to a pastor and asked (beforehand) for the conversation to be kept confidential?

AW Admin
07-24-2016, 07:57 AM
AWA, in those cases, would the penitent expect the confession to be treated as confidential?

This story is set in 1845, but I'm not sure how much that matters since it is being read by an audience (presumably including Protestants) whose expectations are influenced by the modern church. A Catholic would expect any confession to be absolutely confidential. What would a Protestant expect?

I suspect the answer might be, "It depends." Would it shock you -- would you think the man a blithering fool -- if he confessed to a pastor and asked (beforehand) for the conversation to be kept confidential?

I'd ask clergy. Because it would depend on the church/clergy, a lot.

Evelyn_Alexie
07-24-2016, 08:00 AM
Thank you, AWA!

Roxxsmom
07-24-2016, 08:23 AM
I think it really depends on the denomination and on the relationship one has with one's pastors. As you mentioned, it's not a formal sacrament as it is with Roman Catholicism. Some do provide counseling that's similar to what therapists provide. Others may just be there for congregation members who want to talk, including ones who may want to get what they consider a great sin or wrong off their chest. If they're licensed counselors, they would presumably have similar requirements and restrictions as counselors in their state do regarding disclosure of crimes or danger to self or others, mandated reporting of the abuse and neglect of minors and so on.

I googled the question, because your post piqued my curiosity whether ministers could be considered mandated reporters and what the limits of confessional confidentiality re crimes might be, and I found this older article.

http://articles.latimes.com/1986-06-01/local/me-8950_1_grace-community-church

It appears that since this article was written, clergy in CA do have mandated reporting requirements (for crimes against or injuries to minor children).

http://mandatedreporterca.com/training/clergy.htm

http://mandatedreporterca.com/images/pub132.pdf

Different states may have different laws, of course. It appears that Catholic priests have been exempt, even from reporting crimes to kids, however, though SCOTUS may look at this some day.

http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/2014/09/08/are-catholic-priests-obligated-to-report-confessions-involving-abuse-the-supreme-court-may-soon-decide/

As for members of religions that don't have the same restriction being forced to report murders or other serious crimes that involve adults? That's fuzzier, I think. It may vary by state and denomination.

This article might be helpful, as it discusses the philosophies of some specific denominations.

http://www.religion-online.org/showarticle.asp?title=1044

Note--your best bet is likely to ask a cleric of the denomination you have in mind for your story.

Evelyn_Alexie
07-24-2016, 08:35 AM
Roxxsmom, you have great Google powers. I found some of those links, but not others. The first one especially was helpful. The ones on child molestation made me want to weep, which isn't helpful. I don't think I could ever write a story that had a child molester for a hero. Or for anything else, aside from the recipient of a strategically wielded sledgehammer.

Would it work if I had the hero ask the pastor, "would you promise not to tell anyone if I told you something in confidence?" The hero has not done anything to harm anyone, but he has information that potentially /could/ harm people if war was declared between their two countries.

The thing is, I cannot make this story specific in regards to any denomination. I'm going for the lowest common denomination, as it were. It must be generically Christian.

Perks
07-24-2016, 08:40 AM
Would it work if I had the hero ask the pastor, "would you promise not to tell anyone if I told you something in confidence?" The hero has not done anything to harm anyone, but he has information that potentially /could/ harm people if war was declared between their two countries.

The thing is, I cannot make this story specific in regards to any denomination. I'm going for the lowest common denomination, as it were. It must be generically Christian. Yeah, sure. Especially if it's been demonstrated that the pastor is a wise approachable person.

AW Admin
07-24-2016, 09:25 AM
Yeah, sure. Especially if it's been demonstrated that the pastor is a wise approachable person.

Yep. Because it will ultimately depend on the person.

Deb Kinnard
07-24-2016, 09:16 PM
As a lifelong Pentecostal, I think your scenario would work, and the pastor could feel bound to maintain confidentiality. Granted, I wasn't around in 1845, no matter how old I feel some mornings. But things were a little more regimented in the 19th C than in the 21st, and I think you could plausibly show the pastor feeling morally, if not legally, bound by ancient, pre-Protestant practice.

If it works for your story, have the pastor be someone the congregant knows and trusts. That way he will "know" the pastor will keep his words in confidence. Or, if this works better, you could have the man tell the pastor that if he feels the national interest is at risk, he will himself come forward with the information. That gets the pastor off the hook morally, from where I sit.

Burl Kenneth Sloan
07-25-2016, 06:42 PM
I don't know how well this might work in your story but you could have the Protestant main character seek out a Catholic priest specifically for the confidentiality aspect.

Just as an aside, I once saw a cop show where a bad guy walks into a lawyer's office and asks the hourly rate.
"Five-hundred dollars," the attorney replies.
The bad guy shells out $500 and asks "Do I have the privilege now?"
"Yes, anything you tell me for the next hour is confidential," the attorney says.

Just a thought.

yamikuronue
07-25-2016, 06:50 PM
Where I grew up, there wasn't any special privilege when talking to the pastor, but the pastor was generally expected to take care of the congregation, so if something was shared in confidence, it tended to remain in confidence just like telling a friend something in confidence. It was very much an ordinary sort of trust, but the trust was easier come by if you were a pastor than a regular person, if that makes any sense?

cmhbob
07-25-2016, 08:21 PM
I followed a couple of links and got to the Confession wiki article (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confession_(religion)#Protestantism), which points out that Catholicism, Lutheranism, Methodism and Mormonism all hold confessional to be confidential. An American army officer who is a practicing Christian of any kind at that time would probably assume confidentiality. The mid-1840s were an interesting time in American religion.

jclarkdawe
07-26-2016, 03:45 AM
I'm very undecided how you mean this. Do you mean as a religious component, or do you mean from a legal prospective? Those are vastly different questions.

Back in the 1800s, from the legal prospective, anything said to clergy would be treated as confidential. It was a much stronger privilege than it is today.

However, clergy treated the privilege in different ways. Some were very confidential, others were not so much. More than a legal or theological position, a lot depended upon the man involved. Some clergy were blabbermouths, others were oysters.

I think you need to explain what you're trying to do. That would give us a better idea of what you actually need.

Jim Clark-Dawe

Roxxsmom
07-26-2016, 03:53 AM
Roxxsmom, you have great Google powers. I found some of those links, but not others. The first one especially was helpful. The ones on child molestation made me want to weep, which isn't helpful. I don't think I could ever write a story that had a child molester for a hero. Or for anything else, aside from the recipient of a strategically wielded sledgehammer.

Ha, maybe, but my ability to parse the contents of the OP aren't so great. I missed the 1800s aspect, so all that stuff about mandated reporting probably wouldn't have been a thing back then (and when those laws were first adopted in the mid-to-late 20th century, they only applied to doctors). I'm guessing that the privilege between pastors and members between their congregation was a lot more ironclad back in the 19th century, though I'm guessing different denominations, and individual pastors, probably had different takes on it.

This might take some more in-depth historical research on your part, and to echo jclarkdawe, what do you need for your story?

AW Admin
07-26-2016, 04:37 AM
If you can narrow down a denomination, and find a church that was extant in your era, and contact the current clergy, you may be able to find a copy of a confession manual.

Yes. These are a thing. They are exceedingly important for all kinds of Medieval and early Renaissance history, even in the 16th century. I know for a fact that they were around for churches/denominations that practiced auricular confession.

Evelyn_Alexie
07-26-2016, 09:36 AM
Thank you all for your comments. Honestly, I think this question has been answered.

The question was whether a confession made to a Protestant pastor would be treated as confidential.
By "confidential" I mean that it wouldn't be repeated to nobody nohow. It's really not a legal vs. religious issue as far as I can tell. If someone tells something they don't want repeated, would a pastor repeat it?
The answer seems to be a fairly universal: "It Depends."

Which answers the question as far as I am concerned. As I stated in the original question, I CANNOT make this answer based on any particular denomination. It has to be non-denominational. If it isn't possible to answer that question in a non-denominational manner (and judging by the responses, it isn't) then that's an answer to my question.

Thank you all for your comments!

Emermouse
07-27-2016, 06:53 AM
I am the daughter of a Methodist preacher, so take that into consideration, but while the church doesn't do Confession the way the Catholics doing it, where the Priest absolves you of sin and all that, parishioners still confide in their pastor. My dad said that basically the same laws regarding Catholicism, apply in his case. If a member came in, talking about how he killed an innocent man, my dad can listen and urge the member to go to the police and set things right, but he himself is forbidden from picking up the phone and calling the cops. The only time this rule is waived is if he were to find out that a member of the congregation was making threats against someone's life (and by threats, I mean actual ones, not just "I could kill Bob for making me wait so long") and if it turns out a Sunday School director or someone involved in the church, was abusing or molesting kids, if he doesn't call the police, he could be considered liable.

spork
08-02-2016, 08:47 AM
Having been raised Lutheran, I agree with many of the previous comments that it would depend on the individual's relationship with the pastor. Since it's not a formalized Confession in the Catholic sense, I think it is mostly up to whether the pastor is respectful of privacy and the spirit in which the information was given. If this is for a book or a story, why don't you just have the person ask the pastor not to disclose anything?