Australian Archbishop Defies Confessional Reporting Law

By Published on June 16, 2018

The acting Archbishop of Adelaide declared that the Catholic Church refuses to uphold a new law that would force priests to break the seal of confession.

Greg O’Kelly, acting archbishop of Adelaide in Australia, said that the law cannot change the sanctity of the confessional and church law absolutely forbids any priest from violating the confidential nature of confession, according to The Guardian. The law, which goes into effect in October, compels religious ministers to report any confessed child abuser or face fines and prosecution. The Australian Capital Territory (ACT) passed the law in 2017, but O’Kelly said the church only became aware of it on Thursday.

“Politicians can change the law, but we can’t change the nature of the confessional, which is a sacred encounter between a penitent and someone seeking forgiveness and a priest representing Christ,” O’Kelly said, according to The Guardian. “It doesn’t affect us. We have an understanding of the seal of confession that is in the area of the sacred.”

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Priests who break the seal of confession face the penalty of excommunication, according to Catholic Church law. Priests who do not break the seal of confession in ACT, however, will now face a maximum $10,000 fine, according to the new law.

A spokesman for the South Australia attorney general’s office said that authorities will investigate any instance of alleged failed reporting from church officials and will prosecute when necessary.

“Where there is clear evidence to indicate a minister of religion … has failed to abide by their mandatory reporting requirements, the matter would need to be investigated by authorities, with further action – including prosecution – taken as appropriate,” the spokesman said, according to The Guardian.

Catholic leaders decried the new law on Thursday, saying that it would actually make it harder to protect children by destroying any chance of a child abuser actually confessing their crimes to a priest and subsequently being counseled to turn themselves in. Catholic leaders also said that the law violates religious liberties.

“What sexual abuser would confess to a priest if they thought they would be reported? If the seal is removed, the remote possibility that they would confess and so could be counselled to report is gone,” Christopher Prowse, Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn, wrote in an essay. “The Government threatens religious freedom by appointing itself an expert on religious practices and by attempting to change the sacrament of confession while delivering no improvement in the safety of children.”

The former state Education Minister Adrian Piccoli asserted, however, that religious laws did not take precedence over the law of the land.

“The laws of Macquarie Street and Canberra take precedence over canon law, sharia law, or anything else,” Piccoli said, according to The Guardian.
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  • Aliquantillus

    Stupid Australian igoramuses. They don’t know anything about the confessional procedures. A priest doesn’t even see or identify the person who comes to him for confession, as he is separated from that person. The small window in the confessional is covered by a curtain, in order to let only the voice through. So a priest can always say he doesn’t know who confessed to him. There’s no way the Australian government can uphold this law.

  • Andrew Mason

    Are lawyers, counsellors, or psychiatrists legally required to report child abuse? What about social workers? There’s been a disturbing number of stories about Australian social workers ignoring the sexual abuse of minors because intervention would be a ‘greater evil’ than ignoring the abuse. The lifesitenews link is especially ironic as the article after the report on Catholic priests being required to break the seal of the confessional is a story about Planned Parenthood covering up child sex abuse! According to https://aifs(dot)gov(dot)au/cfca/publications/mandatory-reporting-child-abuse-and-neglect who is required to report varies by state from everyone in NT, through to various government employees in QLD. Since prosecutions aren’t occurring for obvious failings what is the point of the new law? And since it applies only to Catholic priests isn’t it an explicitly anti-Catholic law and thus unconstitutional? You don’t need to be Catholic to see this as highly troubling!!!

  • John the Mad

    I remember the day, not so far in the past, when Australia was a liberal democracy that respected religious freedom. Like Canada (i.e., Supreme Court decision on denying accreditation to a Christian College law grads) that was then and this is now. Grotesque!

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