Melbourne, Australia, Aug 14, 2019 / 13:10 pm
The Archbishop of Melbourne has said he is prepared to defy a proposed new law that would force priests in the Australian state of Victoria to violate the seal of confession.
The proposed legislation would include priests in mandatory reporting laws in cases of child sexual abuse, without any priest-penitent exceptions.
“Personally, I’ll keep the seal,” said Archbishop Peter Comensoli during an August 14 interview with ABC Radio Melbourne.
The archbishop said that the seal of confession and the concept of mandatory reporting were “mutually exclusive,” and that he would urge anyone who confessed to abuse to report themselves to the police.
Comensoli said he would also encourage the person who confessed to abuse to repeat the admission again outside of the context of confession, where the seal would not apply and he would be free to report the abuser to the police.
The law was introduced in the Victorian parliament August 14. It would add religious leaders to the list of mandatory reporters of child abuse. This list of mandatory reporters currently includes teachers, police, medical practitioners, nurses, school counselors, early childhood workers, and youth justice workers. Confession would not be exempt.
In 2017, the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse called for the abolition of the seal of confession as one of the 85 suggested changes to further prevent child abuse.
“Confession in the Catholic Church is a spiritual encounter with God through the priest,” then-Archbishop Denis J. Hart of Melbourne said in an August 2017 statement in response to the recommendation.