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The Reckoning viewers confused over what happens if someone admits serious crime in confessional following Jimmy Savile scene

The Reckoning viewers confused over what happens if someone admits serious crime in confessional following Jimmy Savile scene

BBC's The Reckoning premiered last weekend, dramatising the life and crimes of Jimmy Savile

The BBC are certainly stirring up a lot of questions for viewers with its latest series, The Reckoning.

Having premiered last weekend, the new drama traces the ‘life of Jimmy Savile, a man who, for decades, became one of the UK’s most influential celebrities, but in death has become one of the most reviled figures of modern history following revelations of extensive and horrific abuse’.

Dramatising his crimes, the four episodes feature Steve Coogan as Savile.

The BBC added of the series: “Savile used his involvement in multiple organisations, such as the BBC, hospitals, prisons, and charities, to legitimise himself, forging friendships in show business, politics, journalism, the Catholic Church and even the Royal family to cement his position.”

While The Reckoning is based on real events, it does feature some fictional scenes and characters as it says at the beginning: “Some names have been changed and scenes created for dramatic purposes.”

In one scene, Savile is in the confessional at church and tells the Catholic priest his ‘friend’ just ‘wanted to get things straight in his mind’.

Steve Coogan stars as Jimmy Savile in The Reckoning.

“He’s a single man but he sometimes gets tempted,” he says.

Before saying he gives into that temptation by ‘forcing himself upon someone, a young person, a child even’, which the priest calls a ‘mortal sin’.

The priest adds: “Any sin can be forgiven if you made a confession. But you must urge him, if has done anything like you have described, to give himself up to the authorities.”

Viewers were confused by this scene, as they wondered what happens if someone admits a serious crime in confession.

One user wrote on X: “If someone goes to confession and says they did something to a minor surely the person in the confession box still has a duty of care to report this don’t they?”

Savile abused countless young women and girls over decades.
Michael Putland/Getty Images

On, they outline that the ‘seal of confession forbids the priest from sharing such information with the authorities – or with anyone for that matter’.

If a priest was to break this, they’d incur an automatic excommunication.

The site suggests the ways a priest ‘can make efforts' to protect both the good of children and of the ‘inviolability of the sacrament’.

“If the penitent is truly contrite, then the priest could talk it through with the penitent and try to get him to see what true repentance involves,” it says.

“If the penitent doesn’t intend to rectify his ways, the priest could withhold absolution. The priest may also strongly encourage the offender to turn himself in to the authorities.”

In 2019, the Church of England decided against the abolition or qualification of the ‘seal of the confessional’, meaning Anglican priests must avoid sharing confessions of serious crimes with anyone else too.

Featured Image Credit: BBC

Topics: Jimmy Savile, BBC, TV and Film