priest-penitent privilege, evidence

Document Type



Although much has been written on the history of the priest-penitent privilege, this Article will show that such writing tends toward an unconscious, but strong, anglocentric tilt. It seems that no scholar has tried to locate and interpret all the Irish and American sources that inspired this initially hibernocentric, later more generally American, postcolonial deviation from the English common law. Since the Second World War, the significance of Philips and its 1828 New York codification have gained widespread recognition, but the scholarly inquiry has never advanced in any truly historical fashion. This article is thus the first history of the Irish-American priest-penitent privilege to identify its primary ideological impulses and to explain its fascinating postcolonial deviation from the English common law. Empirically, this history of the priest-penitent privilege seems to confirm Louisell's hunch that evidentiary privilege law developed as a necessary recognition of fundamental human rights; going further, this history also reveals the startling role of American postcolonial codification in advancing republican and democratic principles in place of anglocentric common-law reasoning.



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.