A Catholic priest helped police apprehend a murderer despite his oath not to disclose confessions.
John Grazioli of Millcreek Township, Pa. told Rev. Michael Polinek that he shot his wife to death, after which the cleric convinced the man to turn himself over to police, GoErie reports.
Rev. Polinek told GoErie that Grazioli was emotionally distraught when he approached him, claiming he had murdered his wife of five months, Amanda, and would commit suicide after his confession.
“He pretty much just said I need to tell you that I killed my wife and I am going to go home and kill myself,” the priest recalled. “After a little while, I was able to convince him for the sake of the rest of his family and other people that it would be a good idea to call the police — 911.”
The priest then dialed 911 himself.
Catholic clergy are sworn to a seal of confession, meaning they may not disclose the contents of confessions under penalty of excommunication–even for serious crimes like murder.
According to GoErie, Rev. Polinek was able to speak to police freely because the admission Grazioli made to him was not done as part of the sacrament of confession.
Msgr. Edward Lohse, vicar general for the Catholic Diocese of Erie, clarified that under a sacramental confession:
“A priest can never reveal what is confessed to him in the sacrament of penance (confession) to anyone for any reason, ever.
“Understandably, a priest in confession would strongly encourage and even urge the person to come forward to authorities. But he cannot require the individual to do so.”
When Grazioli went into St. Peter Cathedral last week, he had the Glock pistol allegedly used to shoot Amanda still inside his coat pocket.
“I took his coat and set it on the floor and that way, I was between him and the coat,” Rev. Polinek said. “I never looked in the coat. It felt like there was something in it. The police came and took it, but there was no threat.”
Grazioli, a financial advisor, also told his ex-wife about Amanda’s death. The call led police to investigate the Grazioli’s home, where they found her shot in the back of the head.
Police did not determine a motive for the killing, but in an interview with investigators, Grazioli “acknowledged that he was responsible for his wife, Amanda Grazioli’s death.”
He was jailed without bond on charges of criminal homicide, first degree murder, aggravated assault, and carrying a firearm without a license.