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Australia: pressure mounts to break confessional seal

Catholic World News - November 16, 2012

Australian editorial writers have stepped up the pressure on Church leaders to discard the confessional seal in cases of sexual abuse.

Claiming that the seal may protect abusers—a proposition for which no evidence has been produced—pundits argued that a federal investigative commission should force priests to disclose the content of confessions, and suggested that the Church should voluntarily set aside the seal.

Cardinal George Pell of Sydney, who has said that the seal is inviolable, has been a particular target of criticism. The cardinal’s direct and sometimes combative style makes him an easy target, some critics observed.

In his own comments on the uproar, Cardinal Pell said that sex-abuse reports “filled me with horror.” He said that he was “ashamed” of involvement of Catholic priests in abuse. “I am not interested in denying the extent of wrongdoing in the Catholic Church,” he said.

Nevertheless, the cardinal repeated: “the seal of Confession is inviolable.” He added that Australian law clearly respects the seal, and any assault on the seal is an assault on religious freedom.

Australia’s leading Anglican prelate, Archbishop Phillip Aspinwall of Queensland, complicated matters by saying that the confessional seal does not prevent priests from reporting abuse. Cardinal Pell has been at pains to point out that priests can and should report any abuse that comes to their attention outside the confessional.

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  • Posted by: Justin8110 - Nov. 19, 2012 10:30 AM ET USA

    Whatever good and holy Catholic priests are left down under ought to have Masses and prayers offered for them that they may receive the grace to be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice of their lives rather than betray the seal of the confessional.No one can force a priest to break his silence in this matter but human respect and fear can can break his resolve to persevere.

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