31 Aug 2018

Catholic Church won't break seal to report child sex abuse

2:52 pm on 31 August 2018

The Catholic Church will not accept the royal commission's recommendation to lift the seal of confession regarding child sex abuse, arguing it impinges on religious liberties.

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The Australian commission's report called for an overhaul of the confessional, to force religious ministers to report any child sexual abuse revealed to them. Photo: 123RF

Australia's Royal Commission of Inquiry into abuse recommended changes that would force priests to report information confided in them in confessional.

Almost nine months after the Australian commission's findings were handed down, the Church has delivered its formal reply.

It said it would not change secrecy rules, meaning clergy do not have to report abuse revealed in the confessional.

"This is because it is contrary to our faith and inimical to religious liberty," the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference (ACBC) and Catholic Religious Australia (CRA) said in their response.

"We are committed to the safeguarding of children and vulnerable people while maintaining the seal.

"We do not see the seal as mutually exclusive."

The Catholic bodies used their response to argue that children would be less safe if mandatory reporting of confessions was required.

A perpetrator or victim might be less likely to raise abuse in confession if confidence in the sacramental seal was undermined, the response said.

"So an opportunity would be lost to encourage a perpetrator to self-report to civil authorities or victims to seek safety," it said.

Meanwhile, the Church said it would consider a recommendation from the commission on voluntary celibacy.

The ACBC said expert theological and canonical advice will be sought on changing canon laws so celibacy is not mandatory.

"Inadequate initial and continuing formation of priests … for celibate living may have contributed to a heightened risk of child sexual abuse," the response said.

"[But] … the royal commission made no finding of a casual connection between celibacy and child sexual abuse."


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