RESPONSE OF THE DIOCESE OF YOUNGSTOWN
TO THE VINDICATOR STORY
REGARDING PRIEST WHO ALLEGEDLY DID NOT REPORT ABUSE
JUNE 21, 2012
A news story in the Youngstown Vindicator on June 21, 2012, stated that an allegation of child abuse from a victim abused by her stepfather was reported to Rev. Michael Seifert by the victim, but Rev. Seifert did not report it to police. This is said to have happened when the victim, who is now 34, was 15 years old. The Diocese of Youngstown was not aware of this situation until the Vindicator report was published.
After being made aware of the report, Bishop George V. Murry, S.J., Bishop of Youngstown, stated, “Catholics and most non-Catholics realize that the sacredness of the Seal of Confession cannot be broken under any circumstance.”
Reverend Monsignor Peter Polando, Adjutant Judicial Vicar of the Diocese of Youngstown, cited the Code of Canon Law. “Canon 983, paragraph 1, states ‘The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason’.’’ Monsignor Polando further explained that a priest cannot even acknowledge that a person has approached a priest for the sacrament of Confession, in protection of that sacred seal. Civil law also protects the sacred seal of Confession by recognizing the priest-penitent privilege.
The news story implied that Rev. Seifert was transferred for reasons related to this incident. That is not true. Rev. Seifert was transferred in the normal process of re-assigning priests within the six county Diocese of Youngstown.
The Diocese of Youngstown has had a Child Protection Policy in place since 1994. In accordance with that policy, when an allegation of child abuse is reported to diocesan officials, it is immediately reported to civil authorities. Additional information was released in a brochure, “Reporting Requirements and Procedures Regarding Child Abuse,” in November, 2011. The diocese strongly encourages anyone who was abused, or knows of someone who was abused by a priest, deacon, employee or volunteer of the diocese, to contact the civil authorities and the diocese.