Letter: Bugging Bill horrifies Catholics

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The Independent Online
Sir: I hope your headline, "Bleak outlook for bugging Bill" (24 January) means that it will be much more closely scrutinised when it returns to Parliament.

I am not the only Catholic to feel horrified that the proposed law would give our police the power to bug any sacramental confessions made to a Catholic priest. A Home Office spokeswoman has confirmed this, saying that "there are no loopholes and exemptions at the moment".

Whatever happened to freedom of religion? A Catholic priest may never reveal what is said to him under the seal of confession. A priest in Co Durham went to prison in the last century for refusing to tell a court what a suspect had said to him in confession.

Now many ordinary innocent Catholics would be denied the guaranteed confidentiality that is their right; no one would know when or where legal bugging is to take place. Catholic police officers would experience questions of conscience in these new duties.


Grange-over-Sands, Cumbria

The writer was Catholic Bishop of Hexham and Newcastle, 1974-1992