She thought she might get off with a few Hail Marys. Instead, she got three years in prison.
The 27-year-old New Jersey woman who cried rape and put away an innocent man had no idea what coming clean would cost her when she stepped into a confessional a year ago and told her priest everything.
“She was going to confess this was her sin and that was it,” said a source familiar with the shocking recantation of Biurny Peguero Gonzalez, who on Tuesday was sentenced to one to three years in prison for falsely accusing William McCaffrey of a violent sexual assault in 2005.
McCaffrey, whom Gonzalez had accused of raping her on a deserted Inwood street, served nearly four years of a 20-year sentence. The Bronx man, now 33, was exonerated in December after Gonzalez, a mother of two, admitted concocting the tale to gain sympathy from friends.
Although Gonzalez desperately wanted McCaffrey freed, “I don’t think she felt that it was going to go beyond that confession. She just happened to pick a priest who said, ‘Oh, no, no, no . . .’ ”
The priest, the Rev. Zeljko Guberovic of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in Union City, made it clear to her that her obligation didn’t end with admitting the lie.[reference]
By some reports this might also have been her first confession. A rather interesting case regarding sacramental confession in that besides confessing your sins that sometimes restitution is involved. A robber could not simply confess that he had stollen, but would need to pay back what was stolen. Though this need not be done in a public way. I remember one priest speaking on EWTN saying that in some cases he would receive the stolen money and return it to the person robbed, while of course making no mention of who the thief was. In this specific case I don’t see how restitution could be done without the person exposing herself publicly to recant her false rape charge. The inviolability of confession certainly means that the priest could never have brought this up – though it present in odd situation when the penitent brings it up and specifically mentions what when on in confession including the penance given.
It is an unusual situation when the penitent discloses the contents of a confession publicly. Though the priest is still bound to not reveal anything said in confession. Prudentially though I think it would have been better if she had not mentioned what spurned her conversion since I think this will confuse people about the nature of the priest-penitent privilege in sacramental confession. Though certainly there are no canonical penalties for her doing so.
I remember back at the height of political correctness during the ’90’s the meme going around was, “Why would a women lie about being raped?” Implying of course that they never would. But then it was shown that the correct question in, “Why do women lie about rape?” because according to statistics, rape was the highest of false charges.
As far as the penitent disclosing confessional content, it reminds me of the baloney spread around about crimen solicitatis. It seems designed precisely to address the fact that nothing prevents a penitent from leveling a charge against a priest while the priest can not break the seal of confession to defend himself.
She originally cried rape, she says, because her female friends got mad that she “ditched” them and were beating her up. Literally. So she doesn’t sound like a very strong-willed person, or one with a lot of good influences in her life. She probably needs somebody to cite as a source for her change of heart. So of course she’s going to tell the whole story, and maybe even make it more dramatic than it was.
I did read another story about this case which made it more clear that Confessions are secret, that the priest did nothing to break the seal but only persuaded her to turn herself in, and that the woman herself was choosing to reveal what went on.
As most of the stories note, she’ll be serving the same amount of time or more than the guy she accused. But she really does seem to understand the gravity of her actions now, and that’s a big step for the betterment of her life and soul. It’s a high price to pay to grow up; but better late than never.
I am not theologian or cannon lawyer.
I believe that the priest would tell her he could not absolve her if she did not do what she neeeded to do to get the innocent man released from prison. She would not be sufficient repentent and would be continuing her sin of bearing false witness.
I had heard as a young person that if a murderer confessed, the confessor would tell him his absolution was conditioned on turning in himself. That makes sense to this non-theologian.
This particular sin – falsely accusing one of sin to others – is called calumny. It carries with it the duty of reparation of the one whose reputation is injured.
Yes, satisfaction is required for the sacrament to be validly conferred, so absolution would only be effected when she completes the penance, unless she truly forgot to do so, which doesn’t seem possible in this case.
I was under the assumption that absolution is NEVER conditional
paednoch, of course absolution is condition. The assumption is that the penitent is not lying, is not intentionally omitting mortal sings, and will complete the penance. Intentionally choosing not to complete the penance prevents the person from having been absolved.
(re-submitted after some proofreading!)
paednoch, of course absolution is conditional. The assumption is that the penitent is not lying, is not intentionally omitting mortal sins, and will complete the penance. Intentionally choosing not to complete the penance prevents the person from having been absolved.
You are incorrect. One is either absolved or they are not absolved. If absolution occurs then a penitent cannot do ANYTHING to unabsolve themselves. INCLUDING changing their mind about their penance. This comes from a canon lawyer. Absolution of sin is instant and permanent. If a person intentionally chooses NOT to complete their penance abosolution doesn’t somehow become “undone”. Failing to complete penance is a New sin not an invalidation of absolution. Like baptism, absolution cannot be undone. the conditions you list above are things that determine if absolution occurs. Those would be conditions of WHETHER absolution occurs. One cannot be coerced in ANY way to do a penance that they 1) cannot complete 2) would in ANY way violate the seal . There could easily be an instant that a penitent decided NOT to do their penance after reflection.
I would think that the “firm purpose of amendment” would come into play here. That is to say, if the woman did not commit herself to denouncing her own lie, then the first sin of lying about the rape actually continues by default, by her inaction. This particular lie has consequences that continue contingent on the maintenance of the lie. If that were apparent to the priest in the confessional, no absolution would be given without that commitment.
Of course, as has been pointed out, if she has committed herself to undo the lie, and then changes her mind after she has received absolution and left the confessional, only God knows if her “firm purpose of amendment” was genuine. The priest cannot read her mind but can only go by the responses she gives. If her intention was real, objectively speaking, her absolution was real. Otherwise, no absolution took place.
Which goes to show, you might deceive a priest, but you cannot deceive God.
The penitent cannot violate the seal of confession because the penitent isn’t under the seal of confession. The priest is – but not the penitent. Likewise, if the penitent requests an intermediary for the confession for some good reason, like a translator, the intermediary bound by the seal, and the priest bound to make sure the intermediary fully understands the gravity of the seal – but not the penitent. It’s his or her conscience, and his or her prerogative to reveal it to whomever he or she pleases.
Lastly, a priest is required to give penances that do not cause the penitent publicly to reveal his or her sins, except if restitutive justice demands it, and the particular sins in question require restitutive justice. In the case of theft, a priest can often carry out the transaction on behalf of the penitent, who can thus maintain his anonymity while still carrying out restitutive justice. Case closed, problem solved, so far as the law of God is concerned – Caesar can take care of his law himself. But in the case of murder, restitutive justice requires actual retribution – that is, a punishment, and a punishment inflicted not by circumstances or “acts of God,” but by society itself, which has been irrevocably harmed. Something similar happens in the case of crying wolf at somebody else’s expense. She has damaged the social fabric by compromising the system of justice and abusing the solicitous credulity of her neighbors on the jury. The social fabric – woven together with trust in each other’s word and a commitment to uphold each other’s honor – cannot be restored until she has been punished for abusing her word to damage another’s honor. Moreover, the harm she has caused the innocent man in question would be ongoing unless she turned herself in. Even if he forgives her, society still has a vested interest in her punishment, because she has harmed society as well.
This lesson will be a long, difficult one for her, but as others have noted, it is a real step in her maturation and sanctification. God bless her for it. We should pray she perseveres and does not succomb to bitterness. I hope the confessor her shepherded her off the diving board of faith will help her Heaven Father to catch her in the deep waters into which she is falling.