Rev. John Beal, professor of canon law, was quoted in an Our Sunday Visitory story on the seal of confession. See the article below.
From: Our Sunday Visitor Date: July 23, 2014 Author: Michelle Martin
... "The only ordinary way for a member of the faithful to be reconciled to God and the Church following a serious sin is through the sacrament of penance, and confession requires people to expose their consciences," Father Beal said.
Priests who violate the seal of the confessional excommunicate themselves, and the decision to reinstate them can only come from the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith in the Holy See. For the most part, civil courts respect the seal. "By and large, every jurisdiction in the United States does have a statute recognizing the confessor-penitent privilege," Father Beal said. "However, in many jurisdictions in this country, the privilege is understood to benefit the penitent only. Therefore, the civil law would obligate the confessor to honor the sacramental seal as long as the penitent has not released it." ...