Catholic World News

Australian commission recommends ending legal protection of confessional seal

August 14, 2017

A royal commission investigating child abuse in Australia is recommending that state laws be changed to require priests to report confessions of abuse.

The recommendation from the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse would end the legal protection of the confessional seal. The commission suggests that priests should face criminal penalties if they fail to report a pentitent’s admission of abuse. “The right to practice one’s religious beliefs must accommodate civil society’s obligation to provide for the safety of all and, in particular, children’s safety from sexual abuse,” the commission argues.

Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne reacted to the recommendation by observing that priests are under an absolute moral obligation to preserve the secrecy of the confessional. He said that priests should inform police about any abuse complaints they hear in other circumstances, but should accept a prison term rather than disclose the contents of a sacramental confession.


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Show 4 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: feedback - Aug. 16, 2017 2:59 AM ET USA

    This would be something for the Vatican to weigh in. It is also a great opportunity to teach about the Sacrament of Reconciliation and explain the seal of confession.

  • Posted by: mario.f.leblanc5598 - Aug. 15, 2017 9:22 AM ET USA

    I trust the best chance of countering this kind of harmful legislation would be to treat it from a secular viewpoint. Absolute secrecy of the relationship between a private person and a service provider (medical doctor, attorney, and so forth) can be regarded as serving the common good because the person should see no reason to hide the truth, and thus the best course of action to help the person can be taken. The same should obviously apply to discussion with a religious minister.

  • Posted by: rpp - Aug. 15, 2017 8:55 AM ET USA

    Priests have been executed rather than break the seal of confession. I certainly hope that is the case there. If not, then no one will confess that very grave sin and even more souls will be put at risk.

  • Posted by: [email protected] - Aug. 14, 2017 10:08 PM ET USA

    They can recommend all day long. The Church must support the seal of confession. To do otherwise opens a pandora's box of what government will control in the Church. Next they will tell you what you can say from the pulpit. This is an end run for government to run the Church. They must be taking a page out of China's book.