"The whole concept of confession in the Catholic Church is built on repentance, forgiveness and penance," Sullivan said, adding that "if a child sex-abuser is genuinely seeking forgiveness through the sacrament of confession they will need to be prepared to do what it takes to demonstrate their repentance."
Part of this, he said, especially in cases of sexual abuse, "would normally require they turn themselves in to the police. In fact, the priest can insist that this is done before dispensing absolution."
However, since the commission has now made a suggestion counter to the Church's position, the final decision on whether or not it will become law is up to individual parliaments to form their own view and then make the relevant changes to the law.
"If ultimately there are new laws that oblige the disclosure of information heard in the Confessional, priests, like everybody else, will be expected to obey the law or suffer the consequences," Sullivan said.
"If they do not, this will be a personal, conscience decision, on the part of the priest that will have to be dealt with by the authorities in accordance with the new law as best they can."
Other changes proposed by the commission include changes to police responses, such as improvements to investigative techniques when interviewing; provisions for the improvement of "courtroom experience" for victims, making the process less traumatic; the removal of "good character" as a factor in sentencing when that character carried out the abuse; changes requiring sentences to be placed in line with current sentencing standards rather than those at the time of the offense and the extension of grooming offenses to cover when the offender builds trust with a parent or guardian in order access the child.
Of the proposed changes, another that could affect the Catholic Church in real time is the request to change sentencing policies for historical cases of sexual abuse.
The suggestion asks that "all states and territories should introduce legislation so that sentences for child sexual abuse offenses are set in accordance with sentencing standards at the time of the sentencing, instead of at the time of offending."
However, they said the sentence "must be limited to the maximum sentence available for the offense at the date when the offense was committed."
"Many survivors of institutional child sexual abuse do not report the offense for years or even decades and applying historical sentencing standards can result in sentences that do not align with the criminality of the offense as currently understood," they said.
Although it is unknown whether the change will in fact be made or how quickly it could be enforced, the move would directly affect cases such as that of Cardinal George Pell, who is currently facing charges on multiple counts of historical child sexual abuse.
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The charges were announced by the police of Victoria, Australia at the end of June. As the Vatican's Secretariat for the Economy since 2013 and a member of the Council of Cardinals advising Pope Francis, Cardinal Pell is the most senior Vatican official to ever be charged with abuse.
With the permission of Pope Francis, Cardinal Pell has taken leave from his responsibilities in the Vatican in order to return to Australia for the court proceedings.
He has maintained his innocence since rumors of the charges first came out last year. At a brief hearing in Melbourne July 26, the cardinal said he would be pleading "not guilty" to the charges. He is set to appear at a preliminary hearing Oct. 6.
Despite the fact that charges against the cardinal date as far back as the 1960s, the new proposals to historical cases of sexual abuse, if implemented right away, could go into effect in time to determine how Pell is sentenced should he be found guilty.
At the time the charges were announced, Victoria Deputy Commissioner Shane Patton emphasized that at that point, there had been "no change in any procedures whatsoever," and stressed the importance of remembering that "none of the allegations that have been made against Cardinal Pell have, obviously, been tested in any court yet."
"Cardinal Pell, like any other defendant, has a right to due process and so therefore it's important that the process is allowed to run its natural course."