By Larry Peterson
Defender of the Seal of Confession; Father Fernando Olmedo Reguera
On July 1, 2019, The Vatican issued the Note of the Apostolic Penitentiary (a tribunal in the Roman Curia that deals with mercy and forgiveness) about the inviolability of the Sacramental Seal aka the Seal of Confession.
A Sacrament is of God—not man. “the sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore, it is a crime for a confessor in any way to betray a penitent by word or in any other manner or for any reason.” CCC 2490
No human power has jurisdiction over the Seal of the Confessional
Fernando Olmeda Reguera was born in Santiago de Compostela (which is in the northwestern part of Spain) on January 10, 1873. Following his religious calling, he joined the Capuchin Order of Friars Minor and was ordained to the priesthood on July 31, 1904.
When the Spanish Civil War began on July 17, 1936, Father Reguera was serving as the provincial secretary for the Capuchin Order. As were many priests and religious, he was forced to go into hiding. He moved among different friends’ homes and tried his best to stay “under the radar.” He also carried on his priestly ministry as discreetly as possible. However, he was seen and apprehended during the first week of August 1936, when the Civil War was three weeks old.
The soldiers took Father Reguera to an old fortress outside of Madrid. The jails cells at the fort were filled with Catholic religious and laypersons alike. Father Reguera’s initial admission to the jail included a severe beating from the soldiers. It would not be his first.
Father Reguera was permitted to hear the cofessions of the condemned
Father was permitted to hear the confessions of the other prisoners, especially the ones who were about to be executed. He gladly heard the confessions. Ironically, since he was 63 years old, many of the others imprisoned with him were much younger. So, besides being a priest, he presented a paternal quality that proved to be of extra comfort to the doomed prisoners. It may have been a small blessing, but it was still a blessing.
The Commandant demanded that Father Reguera reveal what he had been told. He refused
Father Reguera quickly discovered that his captors wanted much more from him. He was brought into the commandant’s office and told he would have to write down all that he had heard in the confessional. The commandant told him his only other option was death. He adamantly refused and was severely beaten again. They gave him some time and asked him again to cooperate. He refused, and they beat him —again.
He was beaten and sentenced to death
They finally realized that Father Fernando Olmeda Reguera would never break his vow to protect the Seal of Confession and was of no more use to them. A makeshift populist tribunal condemned father to death. His crime—”not revealing the secrets other prisoners had told him in confession.” He was taken outside the fort and executed by firing squad. The date was August 12, 1936.
Pope Francis beatified Father Fernando in Tarragona on October 13, 2013 His remains are entombed in the Basilica of Jesus of Medinaceli in Madrid.
Blessed Fernando Olmeda Reguera, please pray for us.
These are the words of Pope Francis as quoted in the Apostolic Penitentiary:
“Reconciliation itself is a good that the wisdom of the Church has always safeguarded with all its moral and juridical strength with the sacramental seal. It, although not always understood by the modern mentality, is indispensable for the sanctity of the sacrament and for the penitent’s freedom of conscience; which must be certain, at any time, that the sacramental conversation will remain in the secret of confession, between one’s own conscience that opens to the grace of God, and the necessary mediation of the priest. The sacramental seal is indispensable and no human power has jurisdiction, nor can it claim it, on it.”
From St. Padre Pio:
“Confession is the soul’s bath. You must go at least once a week. I do not want souls to stay away from confession more than a week. Even a clean and unoccupied room gathers dust; return after a week and you will see that it needs dusting again!”
Copyright©Larry Peterson 2022 Originally posted with ©2019