Justice Minister Meeting Bishop Today - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Justice Minister Meeting Bishop Today

Published August 23, 2010

Minister of Justice Ragna Árnadóttir will be meeting with Bishop Karl Sigurbjörnsson to discuss recent remarks from Reykholt priest Geir Waage; specifically, that the sanctity of the confession takes precedence over the legal obligation to report sex crimes against children.
As reported, Waage was quoted by Pressan as saying, “That which a priest hears in the confessional must never, under any circumstances, go any further. The vow of silence is either all or nothing. The credibility of a priest is gone if people cannot rely on what they say to a priest staying with him.” This statement was made in reference to recent criticism of the church for being secretive about matters of sexual abuse within its walls.
Other members of the Lutheran clergy, including the bishop, have objected to Waage’s argument, with one priest, Bjarni Karlsson, calling for Waage to be ousted from his office altogether. No decision from the bishop’s office came forward about Waage.
Waage’s remarks – among other things – have prompted the Ragna to call for a meeting with the bishop. The Ministry of Justice oversees that church, and she told reporters that she felt it important “to be clear about the ministry’s responsibilities in this matter.”
As has been reported, the national church of Iceland has been encouraged to do more about matters of sexual abuse within its walls. Most recently, they have said they will begin using a rule they instated 12 years ago, wherein the bishop’s office may request any church employee to open their police record for review, with refusal resulting in termination.
However, the church has also been decidedly tight-lipped about the number of sexual abuses cases reported within its walls, with one spokesman telling reporters that there had been “more than one”, but refused to reveal more.


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