With the sexual abuse scandal in the Roman Catholic Church, it is appropriate to examine the spheres of authority set up and given to us by God: The home, the church and the government. Each of these three have authority, each should guard their authority, and none of them should usurp the authority of the other two.
Now, before I go further: Protestants should not be self-righteous about the sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Church. Protestant churches have sexual abuse too, by pastors and other worship leaders. Protestant churches have been caught covering up these crimes. The secular world is also infested with sexual abuse, from Hollywood casting couches and the government school system to the utterly evil abominations that took place at Penn State University. We live in a depraved culture that is fully corrupted, and the root of it is our enmity with Almighty God and our rebellion against His law.
It is too easy for Christian conservatives (especially those of us with libertarian leanings) to describe government as a necessary evil. That is false, because the Apostle Paul teaches us in Romans 13 that the civil magistrate is actually a gift to us from God to protect the good and punish the evil. One area where evil is to be punished by the government is with sexual crimes. These are not to be handled by the church or the home. Crimes are to be punished by the state that God gave us for our benefit. One of the most evil things about the Josh Duggar scandal a few years ago is that the church and his so-called “father” did not turn him over to the criminal justice system for punishment.
This is why the Roman Catholic doctrine that sins confessed in the confession booth must be confidential is contrary to Biblical doctrine. There is an absolute prohibition on priests disclosing what is said in confession, under threat of excommunication, even if someone confesses to a violent crime in the past or an ongoing violent crime. But it is not the church that was given the sword to punish the evil. God gave the sword to the government, and the church needs to submit to the authority God granted to the government in these matters. The proper response to confession of sin is discretion, but never absolute confidentiality.
Yes, we are right to distrust government, especially in a society that is increasingly hostile to Christian faith and doctrine. However, we must have faith that God will protect us from abuse while we fulfill our duties and submit to the proper authorities on matters of criminal activity. By submitting to the government where God has granted them authority, we submit to God’s law.