1 Feb 2008

Father Panchecho - the dilemma?

Hi All - one of our regular contributors, Dolores, drew my attention to this article on another thread - As i think it raises important issues I thought I would create a new post and invite comment. I know a few months back Father Panchecho spent a lot of time with the PJ - a whole day on one occasion. We do not know whether any confession was given to him in the strict sense. I think that is unlikely. I hope the Church encouraged him to be as helpful as possible with the PJ. I hope he is recovering as reports indicated he was depressed and had become reclusive - really undergoing a complete change of personality. That is very sad and I am sure a great loss to the people of PDL.

I hope, in some way, he is able to recover but no doubt the thought of befriending this couple is very abhorrent to him.

Viv x

Priest breaks seal of confession over Bronx murder

By David Usborne in New YorkThursday, 19 July 2001
For ten years, Joseph Towle knew the truth about a fatal stabbing in 1987 of a young man in a Bronx park and yet he said nothing. He had information that the two men convicted in the case and sent to prison were innocent of the crime and that the real murderers had got away. Now, at last, he has told his story.
For ten years, Joseph Towle knew the truth about a fatal stabbing in 1987 of a young man in a Bronx park and yet he said nothing. He had information that the two men convicted in the case and sent to prison were innocent of the crime and that the real murderers had got away. Now, at last, he has told his story.
The secret was revealed in a federal appeals court on Monday. The witness is better known as Father Towle, a Jesuit priest. In giving his testimony and finally revealing the identity of the real killer, he was performing his civic duty. Some wondered, however, whether he has broken sacred laws of the Church in doing so.
The seeds of Father Towle's awful dilemma were planted one afternoon in 1989, when he was asked to visit a troubled young man in his Bronx parish. That man, Jesus Fornes, told him that he and another man had killed Jose Rivera in the park two years earlier. Fornes was owning up, he claimed, because two of his friends had been wrongly convicted of the murder and were about to receive sentence.
By coming forward now, Father Towle has made himself pivotal to an appeal hearing for one of the two men convicted of the murder, Jose Morales. He, and the other convicted man, Ruben Montalvo, were given sentences of 15 years to life in prison for the murder. After hearing the priest's belated testimony, the judge in the case indicated he would decide within two weeks whether to grant Morales a new trial.
Father Towle began to consider breaking his silence after Fornes was shot and killed in 1997. And yet he was fiercely attacked in court by prosecutors who argued that he was in breach of Catholic teaching by revealing the content of his original conversation with Mr Fornes, notwithstanding that the killer had since died.
One of the cornerstones of the Catholic faith is that nothing said in confession can ever be revealed. Confession, the Church instructs, is between the sinner and God, with the priest acting only as an intermediary. Father Towle told the court, however, that his conversation with Mr Fornes was not a formal confession, but a conversation only. He did concede, though, that after the conversation had ended, he gave Mr Fornes absolution, whereby the sins are forgiven by God.
"It was not a private confession," the priest said later, responding to questions from journalists. "He came to me with the deliberate purpose of making it not secret but of revealing it," he argued. "And then he did reveal it."
Indeed he did. Mr Fornes went to the courthouse on the day his two friends were sentenced and spilt everything to the lawyer of the defendants. His candour came too late for the court, however.
Father Towle, now a priest at St Ignatius Church in the Bronx, clearly spent years agonising over the implications of the case. "Naturally, it has taken a long time," he said. "There is nothing I am more careful about in my whole life than confession."
Among other people who had heard the same story as Father Towle was a legal aid lawyer, Stanley Cohen. When Fornes realised that he had come forward too late to avert the sentencing of his friends, he had gone to Mr Cohen for advice on how he could save them from a life in prison. Mr Cohen said he could not prevent it and that Fornes should stay silent unless he wanted to spend the rest of his days in prison himself.
Mr Cohen also testified at this week's appeal hearing. "I am here because I can't sleep, I can't eat and I can't live with myself," he told the court. He said it had always been "very clear that he [Fornes] had committed murder and these other men had not."
Father Towle eventually agreed to submit a written affidavit about what he knew two years ago. Before agreeing to testify, however, he felt he had to seek the advice of his church leaders. In the end, the New York Archdiocese told him that it would be appropriate to tell the truth.
"Father Towle, given the circumstances as we understand it, was not violating any church law by testifying," a spokesman for the archdiocese said. "It was not a sacramental confession, in which confidentiality would be absolute."


dolores said...

Hi Viv
A priest could be excommunicated for violating the church tenet. If the priest does break the seal of confession,that has to go all the way to Rome for forgiveness.
Father Pacheco said they did not take confession,I will try and find were I read this.

luv xxx

felicity said...

Hiya Dolores

Thanks for that - I think Fr Panchecho maybe got similar advice from the Church as in this story to be as helpful as possible and perhaps that is why he spent so long with the police while they debrief him as to all his contacts with the McCanns, what they said, how they acted etc.

This way at least he can tell himself he did the best he could for little Maddie in bringing those responsible to justice.

Luv Viv x

LittleGreyCell said...

I don't want to upset anyone here and I apologise in advance if I do - it's really not my intention -but try as I might I really can't understand how anyone's duty to their faith, whatever it may be, can be more important than seeing justice on Earth for the killers of a little girl.

I do realise, of course, that any confession would not take place if the confessor knew their admission was not going to be kept confidential forever.

But, be that as it may, the implication of the 'rule' must surely mean that IF someone has confessed to Fr Panchecho about an involvement with Madeleine's disappearance, this makes THEM more important to the church than Madeleine. Why should the confessor of a heinous crime command more loyalty than a dead child just because they have confessed to a minister of the church?

This is really my lack of ability to be able to understand, I'm not criticising anyone for their beliefs.

As is well-documented by now, I was born Jewish, although I do not follow that - or any other 'organised' - faith. This does not mean I am not 'religious'; my own spirituality is very important to me and has contributed to how I have brought up my son.

I'm just trying to understand the nature of mainstream religion which, I have to say, I've spent many years failing to do.

I'm open to friendly discussion on this topic!

LittleGreyCell said...

Oy veh! It's 14.15 already...

docmac said...

Hi lgc

Though I am a committed atheist I respect all (well, most) religions and I have deferred to my ex- and current wives to allow my kids to be raised with a Christian ethos as I believe it gives them a good moral grounding.

I agree with you in that of all the Christian religions, Catholicism seems to be woefully out of touch. Prior to doing what I do now I worked at the renowned Red Cross children's hospital and was involved in many similar situations. Confidentiality in a case like this is now illegal on punishment of imprisonment for up to 5 years. We are bound to report not only an admission of neglect or abuse (or worse), but even a suspicion of same. The Catholic church really needs to get up to speed on these issues. I am not holding my breath.

LittleGreyCell said...

Hello Docmac,

Isn't it weird that the central tenet of one of the world's most 'important' religions is that it colludes with criminals to protect their identity as soon as they know about the crime!

Perhaps I could have had a more fruitful life being born Catholic? (Have I posted before about the comedian, Michael Redmond, who says: "Of course, I was born Jewish. Which came as somthing of a surprise to my parents, who were both Catholic").

But then, I suppose you only have to look at the Catholic Church's collusion with paedophile priests to see that they were only 'doing their duty' according to their own rules.

Don't trust myself to join a forum on that one...

BTW, like your sentence structure -or do you really have several 'current' wives at the moment??


X LGC (Who also has a history, though only one penguin - currently).

docmac said...


Only one current wife at the moment thankfully. English was not my best subject at school (in fact is was my worst). This is probably why I followed a career in the sciences lol. I attended a private Anglican High School myself and there were goings-on there that were not that kosher either, thanks to one particular priest. His shenanigans were quickly discovered and he was dismissed immediately. Surely it has much to do with being part of a 'boy's club'. The Catholic church shows no sign of moving away from this inherently flawed ideology. One has only to look as far as same-sex orphanages and prisons to see what is bound to happen. The world no longer revolves around God, but rather around money and sex.

LittleGreyCell said...


Well, I attended a non-religiously affiliated girls school where one of the male teachers - nothing to do with religion, either - regularly, erm, singled out some of the pupils for one-to-one tuition, shall we say. Nobody admonished him - although to be fair, I'm unsure whether the authorites knew about it at the time.

I recently went to a party full of people I hadn't seen for some (many) years (decades!) - funny, I don't look 112, do I? - and we all exchanged our stories, aghast that nearly everyone who'd known him had a story to tell.

Obviously, the sex thing is rife in every walk of life, but it is truly shocking when a church - which is meant to administer the teachings of 'god' (presumably), and which expects to be held in the highest esteem by its disciples, commits morally corrupt acts that no community should endorse.

If Fr Panchecho takes his service to the community seriously, as I'm sure he does, wouldn't his own moral integrity dictate that his duty must be to (possibly) a murdered child who has (probably) not had an appropriate burial, even?

I think the law now where you are is definitely the way forward. I'm sure it shortcuts many dilemmas about individual faith versus civic and moral duty.

LGC (Not that old really, honest)

docmac said...


You are only as old as the penguin that loves you thinks you are.

I agree wholeheartedly about your feelings on Fr. Pacheco. I read earlier today about an American Catholic priest who has done what was once forbidden. He has spilt the beans after a confession. Can't remember where I read it now. He has done the right thing and hopefully this will set a precedent.

I have to go and fetch my family from the outlaws now. They will probably offer me dinner whilst there, so I may be a while. Hope to catch you and the others later. Regards to Opus.

Irina said...

Docmac and LGC,
I do not look at church with any idealization. Church, no mater of which religion is an organization with specific historical tasks.
Religion would be the candy that brings people to church. Confession is one of fundamental inventions that attract people to church: scene, but confess and you will be forgiven! Without this principal many powerful people would not be allowed to the church due to their sins.

Confession by my view is the biggest wrong in any church: it takes responsibility from human.
Well I am atheist and respect faiths as cultural and moral expression of humans. But I hold people accountable for their actions. And I hold church accountable for its action as well.

Opus said...

Hi there, Docmac,

My regards to you, too!

Hope they're doing herring tonight...yummy!


LittleGreyCell said...

Hi Irina,

I believe that one of the chief functions of churches is that of political control. Be it by spreading fear, or inviting willing compliance with rules which are supposedly "the will of god", leaders can manipulate whole swathes of people by invoking and interpreting written 'texts' to their advantage.

And as it is not usually they who are writing the script, but ancient 'gods' who have a message for all mankind, they can proclaim 'do as god wants you to do by respecting tradition and don't blame me'.

Look at Tony Blair, who recently said it was his belief that it was 'right' - according to his religious moral sense - to invade Iraq. Which also means he can wash his hands of the political and human disaster it turned out to be, because'it was god's will'. I'm perfectly willing to believe this is how he deals with the terrible consequences of it all and manages to sleep at night.

The thing is, if you are only answerable to god, there isn't an awful lot of incentive to consider how what you do affects others, because it's perfectly possible to convince yourself that god wills everything you want to do that way.

The Jewish faith has a kind of confessional thing, but it occurs once a year at the Jewish New Year and is called Yom Kippur. It's the day of fasting when you repent for the sins of the previous year. (Don't know how some fit it all into one day).

I completely agree with you that we are all accountable for our own actions, and wouldn't it be nice if people could work this out for themselves and abide by that instead of committing crimes in the knowledge they can obtain an automatic pardon for them, whatever.

And look what a terrible position it puts people in such as the good Fr in Praia da Luz. What respite is there for him now??

Best wishes, Irina,


Anonymous said...

Hi All,
'The world no longer revolves around God, but rather around money and sex,' says docmac, and who couldn't sympathise with that view, given all the nastiness in the world? But I disagree.
LGC: I understand your disaffection with the Church, but perhaps this: judaism was the first 'ethical' religion.
Irina: I agree with you that individuals must be held responsible for their actions.
Crikey! How did we get to theocracy on this forum, and a Penguin to over us?! Opus: xo.
Personally, as a Methodist, I do believe that God exists as a moral guide. Humans have free will. The choice of good or evil. We are but a moment in time. When I look at the case of missing Maddie, I think we are egocentric toddlers, demanding that our way is the only way, whatever 'our way' is as individuals.
But if we rise above own egos, we reach for higher ideals: justice, humanity, compassion for one child, and every child, and mercy for those who do wrong. Wrong doers will be held to account in the case of missing Maddie, I think, and so they should be, for the sake of the young today who deserve to inherit a more just world. We, the adults, have our freedoms because previous generations died for our right to free speech, and other liberties. Are we really going to be cowed by the thuggish words of media manipulators, the brutes who would make us all cynics, too depressed to fight for what we believe in...a better world?
Happy to read your posts, the thoughts of kind, inquiring minds.
On the God issue: I guess we'll have to agree to disagree...but do remember: it's stones in your socks next Christmas if you don't repent!!! xo (Just kiddin') See you next time.

Anonymous said...

Doh!!! 20.16 G.M.T. London, UK.

Also, LGC: just remember 'Life of Brian'. As his Mum said, no, he's not the Messiah. 'He's a very naughty boy.' I dare say that nice Jewish boy from Nazareth upset his mother, as naughty boys usually do. Just become lawyers, for goodness sake, instead of putting their Mums through years of worry. Tsk. I still plot to make my son a lawyer, against his will. Ha! What does he know? He should do as his mother wishes, like a good boy :-)

Irina said...

Hello anonymous! Can’t argue with you because you have the same point, but in different form. What I argue with is an ownership by church of morality. Morality is a feature of human race - it is a survival mechanism- survival as a group. Immorality is a feature of human race as well - it is a survival mechanism for individuals at the expense of others.
Church made a step, in order to keep the power, to harbor immorality by forgiving it (confess..). No good to confess is Madeleine is dead - that is my view.

felicity said...

Hiya all

I feel a bit overwhelmed by the quality of the debate here and am not good at theorising on religion. I just have a gut feeling Fr Panchecho will have helped the police and that Kate and Gerry would not dream of confessing to anyone!

Viv x

LittleGreyBuddha said...

Hi Leigh,

Not sure about Judaism being the first ethical religion - something about taking your miscreant eldest-born son to the city gates and stoning him to death doesn't sit kindly alongside my liberal ethics!

Yes, we do have free choice. Or should do, if we haven't been indoctrinated from an early age.

And this is the basis, really, of my philosophy - the fact that each individual should be able to work out for themselves that they shouldn't commit murder, and that an instruction manual telling them what's moral and what's not should be unnecessary.

Given that morality differs from religion to religion - and, at the end of the day, that 'religion' is just a 'belief' - it is my (humble) opinion that human and civil rights ought to form the basis of 21st Century religion. Rights have tangible and logistical effects on people's lives; beliefs not necessarily so. There but for the grace of god (!) go we all, and by accident of birth or geography, we might otherwise have been brought up to formulate completely different views. Human rights, however, should be common to all on this planet.

For what is more important than the people on this earth?

How can some religions argue that it is 'moral' to chop people's hands off in ANY circumstances? How can some religions legislate for the repression of women, forbidding them basic human and civil rights?

How can any religion persistently overlook the sexual abuse of minors by its ministers? Or promote rules which sanction the protection those who have committed grave crimes against another human being?

It's all a bit beyond me and my Eastern philosophical humanitarian beliefs. And I should think it's been giving Fr Panchecho some sleepless nights full of philosophical wrangling, too.

Love and peace (and, as someone was once fond of saying, 'blessings'!),

X LGC and Opus, Man

LittleGreyCell said...


Totally agree with you - very nicely put - that the church does not have ownership of morality.

Love and peace,


LittleGreyCell said...

Hi Viv,

Sorry - it's gone a little off-topic here!

(Opus isn't a Christian, btw, but for some reason his favourite bedtime story is the one about the loaves and the fishes...) ;>)


felicity said...


I am bettig opus pet subject is nutrition rather than theology...good for him. Does he like a bit of bread with his main course - bless him ..he is almost human, just like my parrot chatting away to me. He sings really nicely to Pink Floyd too - good taste in music just like his mom! What does Opus favour in music?

Luv Viv x

LittleGreyCell said...

Well, Viv,

Opus happens to be very fond of music. Some of his favourites include The Trout Quintet, Dietrich Fischer Dieskau singing arias from the Herring Fishers (erm, think that should be 'Pearl Fishers, Opus), Sibelius's FINlandia, and You Won't Find Another Fool Like Me by the New Seekers. (How embarrassing, terribly sorry).

LGC loves jazz. And lots of other things that Opus can tap a webbed foot to...

X Smokin' Little Grey Cell

felicity said...

Umm sounded like a reasonable repertoire there until you got to the New Seekers...poor chap how did he get a taste for that.

Jazz - you would get on well with my big sister then:-) She is more sophisticated than me - did music on her degree to be a teacher bless her! I just rebelled on..

Viv x

Irina said...

LGC and Viv, you put me to shame: I fail to teach my parrot to speak human of sing. He barks and meows instead and sometimes whistles.

As to Fr Panchecho I respect him for taking the matter close to his heart at the time when he believed the parents and at the time he was deceived.

I also do not believe those guys confessed - self-preservation is their motto.

I agre with LGC about the humain rights, only as I always try to argue one's right is sombodye's responcibility. In other words: if I have a right everybody else is restricted in terms to guarantee my rigt. Rights is not equal to the uncontrolable freedom. Right is obligation. (2 sides of a coin).
And I think that what modern industrial societies are trying to cover up with the spinn. Rights are same as restriction. Madeline right for safety is restriction of her parents holidays activities.
Not that they care.

Anonymous said...

Dare I say, we do all agree then: rights, responsibilities, let your God go with you or your conscience.
As a Methodist, I see no serious gap between humane aspirations, stark reality, and the honest pursuit of 'truth' in its various forms.
Civilisation is a work in progress, I think, and it requires many minds, many viewpoints, all sincerely seeking a better world, in my humble opinion. Tolerance is a virtue, I think.
'A man persuaded against his will, holds the same opinion still,' is an old phrase I like. Evolution, not revolution, gives us all a chance to ponder the unthinkable, and strive for a better world.
Meantime, Justice for Madeleine is enough to unify people of all persuasions: agnostic, atheists,religious, pagans etc.
Sorry to respond to the religious aspect if it stirs unwelcome thoughts; it was just that the mention of Father Pacheco always reminds me that many innocents have been drawn into the wickedness of deceit, unfairly. Maddie is one child. Fr. Pacheco is one man. They are not merely causes, symbols, a lightening rod for debate. Two people, that's all. Two people with rights equal to the expensive, politically connected crowd shouting them down, and demanding the kind of special treatment Madeleine and Fr. Pacheco never had, nor sought, imho.
Night night. See you sometime.

2345 said...

Kate's mother said K & G were neither devout nor churchgoers until 3 May. I read somewhere recently that Gerry is a self confess aethiest. I agree with Viv; the idea of McCanns making an honest and open confession doesn't 'ring true'.

According to reports, Kate's parents were told the same as the rest of the world on 4 May - shutters were jemmied, Madeleine was abducted. McCanns probably told the Priest the same story.

I'm confused about the Priest for another reason. I read on 3 A's site this morning that the Priest and his wife are in constant touch with and supportive of the McCanns.
Source unknown and flies in the face of recent DE article reporting adverse effects on Priest's health.

In my view, the McCanns have access to all the spiritual help they need via their local Priest.
I doubt the Priest in Luz remains either close to the McCanns or has allowed his association with them after the disappearance to affect his health or wellbeing. He simply did his job and gave solace as he believed it was required.

I can understand Kate's need to spend time alone in the Church for several good reasons. I'm not at all convinced she's the party responsible for apartment forensics. I've read many comments recently about her lack of eye contact with Gerry. I noticed it in one posed 'happy family' shot of them with the twins; Gerry's false grin, eyes directed at Kate, Kate's response is looking down and away. Whilst they appear united, there is an emotional chasm. One or two DE commentators noticed looks of hatred from Kate to Gerry. Tapas waiters interviewed by DE also said they were normally distant - only appeared 'close' in front of the cameras.

2345 said...


Nice to read your posts again. If you've not been ex-communicated from DE Forum (as I have) could you please let Rothaymere know why I 'disappeared', providing it doesn't in any way jeopardize you.

I'd like her to know I'm here and on 3 A's and Alsabellas site.

Please don't put yourself at risk on my behalf and I hope you don't mind me asking. I've caught up with most other genuine people, but not Roth.

Anonymous said...

Hi, 2345.
I see you are still pursuing honest inquiry. Fantastic!
Best wishes,