Confessional seal could make children safer

The President of the Australian Catholic Bishops’ Conference Archbishop Mark Coleridge said at a press conference last Friday that priests will not break the seal of confession,  even if that means they might face criminal charges.

“We don’t believe it will make children safer, and in certain cases, we think it could make children less safe.

Any suggestion that a perpetrator may, in fact, confess is removed all but certainly by the imposition of a law such as this.”

He was speaking after the publication of The Australian Catholic Bishops Conference and Catholic Religious Australia’s Response to the Royal Commission into Institutional Child Sexual Abuse. 

In the response, the bishops and religious said they agree with 98 percent of the recommendations and are committed to safeguarding children and vulnerable people, but they are adamant the confessional seal is inviolable.

The Royal Commission had recommended the bishops consult with the Holy See to clarify whether “information received from a child during the sacrament of reconciliation that they have been sexually abused is covered by the seal of confession.”

The report labelled the suggestion of removing the seal of the confession as “inimical to religious liberty,” not just for the Catholic Church but for other religions as well.

The Response states: “Children will be less rather than more safe if mandatory reporting of confessions were required: the rare instance where a perpetrator or victim might have raised this in confession would be less likely to occur if confidence in the sacramental seal were undermined; and so an opportunity would be lost to encourage a perpetrator to self-report to civil authorities or victims to seek safety.”

Two of Australia’s eight states and territories have introduced laws making it a crime for priests to withhold information about abuse heard in the confessional, while the others have said they are considering their response.

This means priests are required by law in those states to report abuse to the police when they hear about it in confession.

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News category: World.

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