That’ll put the cat among the penitential pigeons!

I note that Australia is considering forcing priests to reveal child sexual abuse that might be mentioned in the sacrament of penance, commonly known as Confession.

Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse recommended in a report on Monday that all states and territories in Australia introduce legislation that would make it a criminal offense for people to fail to report child sexual abuse in an institutional setting. Clergy who find out about sexual abuse during a confidential religious confession would not be exempt from the law.

There’s more at the link.  Bold, underlined text is my emphasis.

I can understand why the Commission is proposing this . . . but it’s going to produce a head-on clash with the Catholic Church, because priests are required – on pain of instant, automatic excommunication – to keep confidential any sin discussed during the sacrament.  There is no way the Church is going to relax that rule, even if priests may be jailed for refusing to obey secular law(s) to the contrary.

The irresistible force is about to meet the immovable object.  Get the popcorn, folks.  This is going to get heated.



  1. It's been reliably reported that Oz is extremely unfriendly to the Catholic Church, so this news is not surprising.

  2. I sympathize with the Church, but when sin crosses the line into violent criminal acts I think the greater good is to report…and I fully understand how much Catholic tradition/polity this goes against. Then again, I am decidedly Reformed Protestant…FWIW.

    Then again, an anonymous confession is virtually worthless in a criminal investigation.

  3. If the priest cares for the child more than the church they should gladly leave the church for the sake of the child. To not do so makes them selfish at best.

  4. What eriko said. Any priest worth the name should gladly choose excommunication over letting a child live in torture.

    Peter, do you feel like keeping one's position is an acceptable reason to let child abuse continue?

  5. Enact that law and close that path to possible redemption. When one knows that confession is the path to prosecution why confess. This is a prescription for furthering depravity. Let those who will confess and do penance after counseling by the priest do not close a path to possible salvation.

  6. It's not merely "keeping a job."

    That ex-communication stuff has to do with eternal salvation. Think of keeping an oath–or marital vows.

  7. This change won't mean that the police will learn of pedophiles and arrest them. This change will mean that pedophiles will soon learn to not confess their sins.

    As it is, priests can – and, I believe, do – urge them to turn themselves in to the authorities. How man do so, I don't know. But at least the possibility exists.

    Like it or not, the church has protected the sanctity of the confessional for over a millenia. Why is it suddenly, now, a problem?

    This looks far more like political posturing and church-bashing than anything intended to actually make an meaningful change in crime prevention.

    And I say that as a non-Catholic who's more than a few differences with the church.

  8. i have to agree with CDH's comment above. As a practicing Catholic, allowing evil acts to be continued on a child deserves far worse than simply reporting the acts to authorities. How does a child molestor expect to be treated by the Church – forgiveness ?

    The only penance received should be the molestor going to authorities and turning themselves in, confessing their crimes to them. Allowing the acts to continue is inexcusable.

  9. Any organization, under any circumstances, which deliberately conceals child abuse is not a fit organization for anyone with a concept of righteousness.

    We know that child abuse has serious long term affects on children. I think this applies.

    Mark 9:42 ESV /

    “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.

  10. Why not just go ahead and eliminate the Lawyer-client and doctor-patient privileges as well. Sure, there won't be any unintended consequences to that either.

    There is more to the confessional than a mere job to the priest. It is a relationship to God. As others have stated, the seal of the confessional has been in place for millennia. Priests have not only gone to jail but to the gallows rather than break that seal. Do we really want to go there.

    However, I doubt it will really become an issue as it all looks to me like posturing by the usual, anti-Catholic suspects.

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