Ryan Baron North
Had a little thought experiment today concerning a Catholic Chaplain with the U.S. Air Force. It came up that they are under complete confidentiality. You could literally bring anything you want to them, and It stays in the room under threat of severe punishment to the Chaplain in question.
Canon 983.1 of the Code of Canon Law, “…It is a crime for a confessor in any way to betray a penitent by word or in any other manner or for any reason” (#2490). A priest, therefore, cannot break the seal to save his own life, to protect his good name, to refute a false accusation, to save the life of another, to aid the course of justice (like reporting a crime), or to avert a public calamity. He cannot be compelled by law to disclose a person’s confession or be bound by any oath he takes, e.g. as a witness in a court trial. A priest cannot reveal the contents of a confession either directly, by repeating the substance of what has been said, or indirectly, by some sign, suggestion, or action. A Decree from the Holy Office (November 18, 1682) mandated that confessors are forbidden, even where there would be no revelation direct or indirect, to make any use of the knowledge obtained in the confession that would “displease”...
So my moral question/writing prompt/ethical quandary is...
You're a priest under the umbrella of this confidentiality.
I walk into your office and say, "Hey, priest. I'm the Zodiac Killer." With that, I drop a pile of files, videos, and other items across your desk that proves, beyond a shadow of a doubt, what I say is true.
I take one of the cigars from the gold case off your desk—cause that's the kind of priest you are—and I state, "Tonight, I am going to kill three more people—just for you."
I light the cigar, and give you a smile before I pick back up all of my evidence, turn, and leave...
What do you do?
Do nothing and three people die...
If you tell anybody, you are looking at excommunication, jail-time, and unemployment...
It's similar to the train heading down the tracks ready to run over 5 people tied down, and you are asked if you would pull a lever that jumps the train onto a track only containing one person tied to the rails.
So, what do you do?