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Calls for Roman Catholic clergy in Australia to report instances of child abuse heard in confession

18 August 2017


THE Royal Commission into Insti­tu­tional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse has called for clergy in Aus­tralia to have to report instances of child sexual abuse that they have heard of in sacramental confession. The call is one of 85 legislative and policy changes that the Commission has recommended in a report, Crim­inal Justice, released this week.

In confession, Roman Catholic chil­dren had disclosed their sexual abuse, the report says, and clergy had “dis­closed their abusive behav­iour in order to deal with their own guilt”.

Although the Commission recog­nised the “inviolability of the con­fes­sional seal to people of some faiths”, and the principle of freedom of religion, the right to freedom of religious practice was not absolute, the Commission said. It must ac­­com­­modate “civil society’s obliga­tions to provide for the safety of all and, in particular, children’s safety from sexual abuse”.

Roman Catholic lead­ers have voiced their opposition to any threat to the seal of the con­fessional. The RC Archbishop of Melbourne, the Most Revd Denis Hart, said on Tuesday that he stood by comments made in 2011 that he would be ready to face prison rather than break the seal.

The Anglican Church of Aus­tralia has already prepared possible changes to its canon law in the area, in advance of a meeting of the Gen­eral Synod next month.


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