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Melbourne archbishop says he’s prepared to go to jail rather than divulge confessions 

August 17, 2017

Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne, Australia said that he would go to jail rather than obey a law requiring him to divulge the contents of a sacramental confession.

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The archbishop was responding to a recommendation from the royal commission on sexual abuse, which had urged Australian states to implement new laws requiring priests to disclose reports of sexual abuse that they heard in confessions.

Archbishop Hart stressed that the Church could not accept such legislation. “I believe that this is an absolutely sacrosanct communication of the highest order,” he said. He added that he would “go to extreme lengths outside the confessional” to ensure that sexual abuse is reported to proper authorities.

A popular priest of the Melbourne archdiocese promptly contradicted the archbishop’s stand, calling for a “redefinition of the confessional seal.” Father Bob Maguire said: “Everything should be resubmitted in the post-modern age.” He added: “I want the bishops and the royal commission to tell me what to do.”


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  • Posted by: leeanne50 - Aug. 18, 2017 9:40 PM ET USA

    Well, at least, Father Bob's, parishioners are forewarned. Don't tell him anything you don't want the world to know. And nothing should ever be "submitted" to the post modern world.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 18, 2017 1:03 PM ET USA

    Fr. McGuire, read about St. John Nepomucene who died rather than divulge the queen's confession to the king.

  • Posted by: - Aug. 18, 2017 1:01 PM ET USA

    I stand with Archbishop Denis Hart of Melbourne. MAy God bless him and all those who defend the seal of confession.

  • Posted by: wsfinkeva4309 - Aug. 18, 2017 8:50 AM ET USA

    If we redefine the seal of the confessional for this horrid act, then we may as well insist that priests tell about murders, robberies, adultery (hey, the offending spouse might bring back a deadly disease for the other spouse) and so on. May Fr. Maguire learn courage from his bishop. And if he wants the bishop to tell him what to do, well- Archbishop Hart just did!

  • Posted by: DrJazz - Aug. 18, 2017 7:37 AM ET USA

    Father Bob isn't being honest. He doesn't want the bishops to tell him what to do. Archbishop Hart essentially told him what to do, but doesn't want to do that. Father Bob is looking for something that will be easier and help him remain popular.

  • Posted by: filioque - Aug. 17, 2017 6:29 PM ET USA

    Thank God for the Archbishop! And he must immediately instruct his priests in the requirements of the seal of the confessional.

  • Posted by: feedback - Aug. 17, 2017 1:09 PM ET USA

    "Popular priest" Father Bob Maguire has totally wrong understanding of the seal of confession: it does not depend on the decision of the local Bishops or the royal commission. I think that even discussing breaking of the seal as a conceivable possibility is detrimental to the Faith.