Sins of the Fathers

Free Sins of the Fathers by Sally Spencer

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Authors: Sally Spencer
said. ‘Did Bradley Pine attend Mass regularly in the last few weeks of his life?’
    â€˜Yes, he did.’
    â€˜And before that?’
    â€˜Not to attend Mass is, as you are probably only too well aware yourself, a mortal sin.’
    â€˜Which he was guilty of?’
    â€˜Next question,’ Father Kenyon said.
    â€˜You heard his confession last night?’
    â€˜Yes, I did.’
    â€˜Did you talk to him outside the confines of the confessional?’
    â€˜Yes.’
    â€˜And when you talked to him
outside
the confessional, did he seem worried or disturbed about anything in particular?’
    â€˜I can’t answer that.’
    â€˜But surely, if it wasn’t under the seal of—’
    â€˜Let me ask
you
a question,’ the priest interrupted.
    â€˜All right,’ Paniatowski agreed.
    â€˜Are you able to divorce what goes on in your interview rooms from what goes on outside them?’
    â€˜I think so.’
    â€˜And
I
think you are almost certainly deluding yourself, my child. What you encounter in that interview room must be much like what I often encounter in the confessional.’
    â€˜And what is that?’
    â€˜People who are so unsure of themselves – or so terrified – that the mask they normally wear slips off, and the disguise with which they seek to clothe themselves is quite stripped away. We have penetrated their secret selves. We have seen them naked.’
    â€˜I’m not sure I—’
    â€˜And later, when we meet them again – outside the confessional or outside the interview room – we may hear them say the same words as other people hear them say, but we will interpret them differently. Because we understand them better – because we have been given the
key
to them.’
    â€˜Perhaps you’re right about that,’ Monika Paniatowski conceded. ‘But so what?’
    The priest laughed. ‘It doesn’t bother you. And why should it? You’re a police officer, and those you question have no choice in the matter. But my parishioners do have a choice. They come to me because they trust me. They
give
me the key, rather than my having to seize it from them. And that means that though I may physically leave the confessional, there is a sense in which I will always take it with me.’
    â€˜I’m not asking any of these questions just to satisfy my own idle curiosity, you know,’ Paniatowski said, experiencing a rising frustration. ‘I’m doing it because I’m trying to catch a murderer.’
    â€˜Yes, I quite understand that.’
    â€˜Some people would consider that a worthwhile aim.’
    â€˜
Most
people would. And they would be quite right to. It undoubtedly
is
a worthwhile aim.’
    â€˜Then why won’t you help us to achieve it?’
    â€˜Because I am restrained from doing so. And those restraints go far beyond the single issue of catching your murderer. Even if, by speaking out, I could save other lives—’
    â€˜Are other lives in danger in this case?’
    â€˜Not as far as I know. But if they were, I would still maintain my silence, because nothing can justify breaking the seal of the confessional.’
    â€˜Not even the needless suffering of a young child?’
    â€˜Not even that.’
    â€˜But would you go drinking with the man who had made her suffer – the man who continued to make her suffer?’ Paniatowski demanded angrily.
    The priest looked suddenly troubled. ‘I’m sorry, but I’m afraid I have no idea what you’re talking about,’ he admitted.
    Paniatowski took a deep breath. ‘No, of course you don’t,’ she said. ‘Did Bradley Pine say where he was intending to go after he left the church last night – or don’t you feel able to tell me
that
, either?’
    â€˜I can see no reason why I wouldn’t be able to reveal that particular piece of information if I had

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