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Australian commission proposes requiring priests to reveal details of confession

Christine Riggle/Flickr

Deacon Greg Kandra - published on 08/15/17

And bishops are, understandably, fighting the move:

The bishops of Australia have indicated that they will resist the Royal Commission’s proposal that priests be legally obligated to disclose details of sexual abuse revealed in the confessional, facing criminal charges if they don’t. “Confession in the Catholic Church is a spiritual encounter with God through the priest,” Archbishop Denis J Hart of Melbourne said in an Aug. 14 statement. President of the Australian Bishops Conference, Hart said confession “is a fundamental part of the freedom of religion, and it is recognized in the Law of Australia and many other countries.” “It must remain so here in Australia,” he said, but stressed that “outside of this, all offenses against children must be reported to the authorities, and we are absolutely committed to doing so.” The statement came the same day Australia’s Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, established in 2013, released a sweeping 85 proposed changes to the country’s criminal justice system. In addition to suggestions tightening the law on sentencing standards in cases of historical sexual abuse, the use of evidence and grooming, the commission recommended that the failure to report sexual abuse, even in religious confessions, be made “a criminal offense.” “Clergy should not be able to refuse to report because the information was received during confession,” the report said, adding that if persons in institutions are aware of possible child abuse or suspect it, they ought to report it right away.

The seal of the confessional is unbreakable.Canon law makes it explicit:

Can.  983 §1. The sacramental seal is inviolable; therefore it is absolutely forbidden for a confessor to betray in any way a penitent in words or in any manner and for any reason.
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