Canberra, Australia, Jun 9, 2018 / 02:57 am
A new law in Australia will require Catholic priests in Canberra to break the seal of confession to report child abusers, drawing adamant opposition from Church officials.
“Priests are bound by a sacred vow to maintain the seal of confession,” said Archbishop Christopher Prowse of Canberra and Goulburn, adding “without that vow, who would be willing to unburden themselves of their sins?”
In a June 6 article for the Canberra Times, Prowse cautioned that “the government threatens religious freedom by appointing itself an expert on religious practices and by attempting to change the sacrament of confession while delivering no improvement in the safety of children.”
“Sadly, breaking the seal of confession won’t prevent abuse and it won’t help our ongoing efforts to improve the safety of children in Catholic institutions,” the archbishop continued.
On Thursday, the ACT Legislative Assembly in Canberra passed a law requiring religious organizations to fall under the legal requirements of the mandatory Reporting Conduct Scheme. Religious groups and their “activities, facilities, programs or services” will be required to report any allegations, offences or convictions of child abuse within 30 days.
This legislation extends to the seal of confession, making it illegal for priests to fail to report the confession of a child sexual abuse crime. The confession provision will take effect March 31, 2019.
ACT Attorney-General Gordon Ramsay said the situation is “complex” and must be discussed “with community and religious leaders” over the course of the coming months. Ramsay also noted he would be meeting with Archbishop Prowse to discuss the new law.
However, politicians in the area have already raised concerns over the new measure. Andrew Wall, a member of the Australian Capital Territory Legislative Assembly, said many of the clauses in the new law were “overdue,” but disagreed with its extension to the confessional.