About two years ago, in a university town in the south of England, I sought out the services of a professional counsellor for a troubling family situation.
Before proceedings began, she issued me with a statutory warning. If I had broken the law, had any contact with suspected terrorists or knew of illegal drug-smuggling or other serious offences, she would be obliged to pass this information on to the police.
I was stunned. Beyond the odd speeding ticket, I hadn't broken any law. Yet I didn't like the note struck. I was paying for a confidential service and being told that this professional was, in effect, an agent of the state. I did not, somehow, feel free to speak to her openly. There is a difference, surely, between a therapeutic counsellor and a court of law.
Whatever happened to the seal of the confessional? Surely that pledge about confidentiality goes well beyond the sacrament of confession itself - it extends to doctors, lawyers and psychiatrists.
For example, supposing a person comes to his GP with a sexually transmitted disease. Supposing the patient tells the doctor that this must be kept absolutely secret from family, spouse or partner - although sexually transmitted diseases are contagious and a partner could be at risk.
What does the doctor do? Insist on disclosure or keep patient confidentiality?
What doctors try to do is persuade patients to make their condition known to relevant others.
I am not sure if the Republic's Justice Minister Alan Shatter realises how complex his plan of mandatory reporting of child sex abuse is if revealed in the Catholic confessional.
It has implications for a range of professionals and it could also backfire in the treatment of paedophile offenders.
The campaign by the News of the World to establish "Sarah's Law" - publicly identifying paedophiles in a neighbourhood - had made it measurably more problematic to treat the perversion.
Paedophiles were terrified they would be discovered by a lynch-mob - and professional therapists were equally nervous they, too, might be targeted.
In Portsmouth, an angry crowd had attacked a paediatrician in the mistaken belief that a doctor specialising in children's conditions had some link with paedophilia.
Psychiatrists were also unhappy about reporting a patient's problems to the police.
Again, it deterred potential child abusers from coming forward for treatment.
The seal of the confessional has long been a traditional realm of absolute confidentiality.
Alfred Hitchcock made a famous movie about the subject, I Confess, with Montgomery Clift as a Canadian priest who knew the truth about a murderer's story, but was prepared to go to the gallows himself rather than break the seal of the confessional.
The purpose of confessional confidentiality is that a sinner could confess any sin, however heinous, with complete trust. The confessional - like the psychiatrist's consulting room - was not a court of law.
If paedophiles abuse a child, certainly they have broken the law and should be charged.
Yet, individuals with a paedophile orientation also need treatment.
Forcing a priest to disclose what has occurred in the confessional is a dangerous step for a free society.
It all but abolishes private conversations. It makes every professional an agent of the State, and there is a word for a society in which everyone is a potential agent of the State: fascism.