The seal of confession cannot be broken

The Anglican Communion has demonstrated, yet again, how eager it is to keep up with changing times.

In line with society’s greater recognition of the devastation wrought by child sexual abuse, a recent Synod has sought to remove any impediment to good professional practice and individual conscience by allowing individual priests to report on serious crimes they may have learnt about through confession.

It has not taken long for commentators to wonder if the much slower moving Catholic Church will eventually follow suit.

Thus, while Alison Cotes congratulates the Anglican Church in Australia for giving short shrift to the inviolability of confession, she also wonders if “in the fullness of time, the Roman Catholic Church will also see that what was good theology in 1215 may not be so useful, or even moral, 800 years later.”

In an atmosphere of disgust and disappointment at the shocking betrayal of so many vulnerable parishioners on the part of abusers in the clergy, some tangible show of genuine reform on the part of the institutional Church is sorely needed.

Bishops and priests need to be seen to be walking with Pope Francis in living out the Gospel, creating an environment of blessing for little children.

As Cotes reminded us, Jesus even taught that millstones should be placed round the necks of those who would scandalise the little ones, not that they should remain in office or be shifted around and hence be given new opportunities to prey.

The Pope has assured sex abuse survivors that bishops will be held accountable, but whether his personal commitment to child safety can reach into the wider institutional culture remains to be seen.

As an old Anglo-Catholic boarding school girl, Cotes knows enough to realise that change is easier to come by among Reformed Anglicans than it is among Roman Prelates. Continue reading

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