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Australian priests will defend confessional seal, bishops' spokesman assures

Catholic World News - July 22, 2011

A spokesman for the Australian Catholic bishops’ conference has warned that Catholic priests would not comply with a proposed law requiring them to break the confessional seal—a suggest brought forward by Senator Xenophon as a response to the sex-abuse scandal.

"His proposal does nothing to protect children and flies in the face of a fundamental right of people to practice their religion," said Father Brian Lucas. He said that priests would refuse to comply with the law, noting that priests have “gone to their death” rather than violate the confessional seal.

(The Herald Sun report betrays ignorance of the subject in two ways. First, the headline says that the “Catholic Church won’t give up its secrets” [emphasis added], when it is the secrets of those making confessions that are in question. Second, the report refers twice to “penitence” in contexts when it is obvious the proper word would be “penitent” or “penitent’s.”)

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  • Posted by: wolfdavef3415 - Jul. 24, 2011 9:22 PM ET USA

    ...standards of justice in Australia. I think that, while the anger here is justifiable, not only can you not use the evidence from the Confession in court, but how would the law be enforced? How would you know when a priest had held back on a confession? Would you then accept a blind accusation from someone accused of child abuse that he had confessed? This is poor logical thinking on the part of someone in Australia (and Ireland).

  • Posted by: wolfdavef3415 - Jul. 24, 2011 9:18 PM ET USA

    There is a major logistical issue here. What if the penitent is behind the confessional screen? What is the priest supposed to do? Bum rush the person? Also, and please understand the hypothetical here, but priests are human, too. What if a priest uses the reporting framework of this law to unwholesome ends? Furthermore, any respectable court would treat a conversation solely between two individuals as hearsay, would it not? Sad that the hatred of Catholicism blinds to the point of lowering...

  • Posted by: kmbold - Jul. 23, 2011 7:17 PM ET USA

    Xenophon, huh? Must have a latent fear of those foreign Romans?

  • Posted by: jplaunder1846 - Jul. 23, 2011 2:00 AM ET USA

    Further: the Bishops... have failed to protect the interests of children. But the two issues are separate. Like Mark I am also concerned at the latent anti-Catholic sentiment that underlies a lot of the rhetoric in a militantly secularist society. I generally support the concept of a secular society, which allows freedoms of religion, media and association, I am disturbed as what I see as a totalitarian mindset that is on the increase in Western society. In the long run it will surely the freedoms that our society has enjoyed .

  • Posted by: jplaunder1846 - Jul. 23, 2011 1:55 AM ET USA

    In response to the Herald Article I commented as follows: As a Catholic who understands his Faith very well, there is no way a priest can break the seal of confession. Mark of Albury explains it well. Like all Catholics (lay and clergy alike) and as a welfare worker I am saddened by the fact that a number of clergy have failed to live by the faith they preached and also by fact that some Bishops in the past have sought to avoid scandal and have failed to protect the interests of children.

  • Posted by: AgnesDay - Jul. 22, 2011 2:32 PM ET USA

    Maybe they ought to pass a law that attorneys (or solicitors, as they call them) should report the confessions of their clients. What hypocrites.

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