Australia’s archbishops split over confessional secrecy

Australia’s archbishops expressed very different views on whether information children “confess” about abuse should be kept private, last week.

They were being quizzed at the Australian Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse.

One of the questions they were asked related to a fictional child called ‘Sally’ who reported abuse to them in a confessional.

Sydney Archbishop Anthony Fisher and the Archbishop of Melbourne, Denis Hart said they believe children have spiritual rights, and they know whatever they say to God won’t be repeated.

They agreed that while they would try to get Sally to talk to authorities outside the Seal of the Confessional, it was up to her to choose.

If she did not allow it, her discussion would remain confidential.

However, Archbishop of Adelaide Philip Wilson said after recent study, he believes the Seal of the Confessional only applies to sins confessed.

“It seemed to me to be plausible in those circumstances that if a child told you this was happening to them, they’re not confessing a sin they’re just giving you some information about what’s happening to them and in that doctrine, it would be possible then to do something about it,” he said.

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