The New Rules for Keeping Secrets

Priests and lawyers changed course last week, making it a little easier to speak out

The Rev. Joseph Towle, a priest in the Bronx, N.Y., usually hears confessions, but recently he offered up a jaw-dropping one of his own. Thirteen years ago, a man named Jesus Fornes told Father Towle he had committed a murder, one for which two innocent men had been convicted. Towle disclosed last month that Fornes, now dead, was the killer, and urged that the men--who had served 13 years in prison--be freed.

Towle's bombshell provoked outrage from two directions. To some, it was shocking that a Catholic priest would violate his calling by betraying a penitent. (Towle says Fornes' statement wasn't...

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