Catholic academic calls for no absolution for child abuse

A Catholic academic in England says Catholic priests should refuse absolution to people who confess to abusing children.

Cambridge academic John Cornwell made this call after the Church of England announced it would look at whether abuse admitted in the confessional should stay confidential.

Dr Cornwell, who has written a book on Confession and is a contributor to The Tablet, acknowledged that withholding absolution could dissuade abusers from seeking the sacrament at all.

But he said that withholding absolution might also bring to an end cycles of abuse and absolution.

Dr Cornwell was sexually propositioned by a priest during Confession as a child.

Last week, he told The Times: “Catholic priest abusers appeared to use Confession routinely to square their pastoral and offending lives.”

“In one court case in Australia a priest admitted to confessing his abuse 1400 times,” he reportedly said.

An investigation by The Times exposed a leading Anglican priest, Rev. Robert Waddington, as a serial sexual abuser of children in England and Australia for more than 50 years.

An inquiry showed the Church of England failed to act adequately to stop the abuse.

The Anglican Archbishop of York, Rev. John Sentamu said that “what happened was shameful, terrible, bad, bad, bad”.

Archbishop Sentamu said that one of those who reported abuse to the inquiry believes that disclosures made in the confessional should not be confidential.

The archbishop said he had sympathy with this view and announced that the Church has commissioned theological and legal work on the question.

Rev. Waddington, who died in 2007, was head of education for the Church of England.

He was also a dean of Manchester Cathedral and governor of a music school where he was alleged to be responsible for mass abuse against children.

In July, Anglicans in Australia backed a change to the conventional confidentiality of the confessional in cases of serious crimes.


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